28 July 2009

The Evolution Of The Railway Industry In Johor

THE evolution of the railway industry in Johor reflected the state's attempt to assert its independence against British forward movement. In 1899, Frank Swettenham had planned to connect the Federated Malay States (FMS) Railway from Prai to Singapore passing through Johor. Sultan Ibrahim and his advisors, among them Datuk Sri Amar DiRaja Abdul Rahman Andak, objected to the proposal.

It was an attempt to force Johor to accept colonial rule. The FMS offered two alternatives. First, for Johor to raise the capital and the FMS will build the railway for her or alternatively, a loan to Johor on the condition that a British auditor be placed in Johor's establishment. Sultan Ibrahim resolutely stood by his principle of preserving Johor's independence and insisted that Johor build the railway.

After protracted negotiations between Sultan Ibrahim and Swettenham, the Railway Convention was finally signed on July 11, 1904 in London.The cost of laying 193.92km of tracks from Gemas to Johor Baru was $12,460,881. Johor was given a loan of $11 million to be settled in 21 years ending Dec 31, 1925. But Sultan Ibrahim's government settled it in full after 14 years, as proof that Johor was economically and financially independent.

It was a difficult railway to build as there were no roads or other forms of communication, except for 35km of partly metalled road out of Johor Baru. A thick wall of forest had to be cut through from Gemas. Heavy rain made the workers sick all the time.

Construction was completed on Sept 31, 1908. The opening ceremony by Sultan Ibrahim, witnessed among others by Governor Sir John Anderson, was held at the Johor Baru Station on Dec 12, 1908, followed by a train ride to Gemas at the Johor-Negri Sembilan border.

In 1911, Johor leased the tracks to the FMS from Jan 1, 1912 to Dec 31, 1932, effectively losing control to the British. The agreement was extended for another 21 years to Dec 31, 1953.The completion of the railway made it imperative in the eyes of the Colonial Office for Johor's administration to be assimilated to that of the FMS. It was the signal for British intervention.
The first General Advisor, Douglas Graham Campbell, arrived in Johor Baru by train on Jan 7, 1910.

From Johor Baru, the FMS launched a ferry service to connect the Singapore railway at Kranji that was completed in 1903. The service was operated by Wagon Ferry, consisting of two vessels that can accommodate five trucks of goods.

Before the FMS railway came into being, passengers from Singapore would disembark at Kranji and cross the Straits of Johor by passenger boats to Tangga Duke and later to Abu Bakar Pier situated at the mouth of Sungei Air Molek. The pier was demolished after a temporary railway station was completed in 1911.

In 1919, a causeway linking Johor and Singapore was constructed. It was opened in July 1924. A drawbridge and a lock system were incorporated at the Johor end to allow for ships sailing east and west. Railway crossing was then possible.The drawbridge and lock were demolished by the retreating British forces in the face of the advancing Japanese.

The original station was at the foot of Bukit Meldrum, the site of the present Central Police Station. Sultan Ibrahim directed his architect friend to design a building, complete with accommodation and dining facilities, as a railway station. The plan was approved by the FMS and the station was constructed at Kampong Jim Quee where it now stands.The evolution of the railway in Johor was the manifestation of Sultan Abu Bakar's dream.More importantly, it was the catalyst for the socioeconomic development of the state.

New frontiers were exploited. Large tracts along the railway were opened up for commercial agriculture like rubber, that was first introduced in Johor in 1884, and oil palm in 1928. Growth centres mushroomed.

A network of roads totalling 523km was constructed in 1911 connecting the towns to the railway. Ironically, road development unavoidably provided competition to the railway. The opening of the causeway encouraged growth of motor transport. The west coast areas continued to carry on a coastal trade with Singapore.

In 1923, the government continued to construct another 1,000km of roads lateral to the railway. The railway and roads faced healthy competition, leading to lower costs and improved efficiency in conveyance of goods and passengers.This was of prime importance in developing the wealth of the state.

Export and import trade flourished. Communication was enhanced.Human transit was unrestricted, and this assisted in building communities and establishing a progressive, unified and tolerant society.

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1 comment:

mancai said...

teringat satu masa dulu muar adalah satu pusat perdagangan yang maju - menurut cerita atuk2 saya dulu.