JOHOR BARU, Oct 31 — The Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, connecting Johor Baru and Singapore, will proceed without further delay, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today.
“The cost of the project has been reduced by 36 per cent from RM4.93 billion to RM3.16 billion,” he said during an announcement and press conference on the RTS Link at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility in the Sultan Iskandar Building here today.
“We have made a decision and will proceed with the RTS Link project as it will solve the congestion problem at the (Johor) Causeway,” said Dr Mahathir during an announcement and press conference on the RTS Link at the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility in the Sultan Iskandar Building here today.
However, Dr Mahathir said the most efficient way to solve the problem (of congestion) is to build a new bridge.
“But we can’t build another bridge because Singapore refuses. I don’t know why.
“Johor has been very generous to Singapore by selling raw water to them at three sen per 1,000 gallons, but when we want to build another bridge to solve the problem of congestion problem, they refuse.
“I don’t see how we can be so accommodating to Singapore but they can’t be accommodating to us,” said Dr Mahathir, touching on the issue of the Johor Causeway’s congestion that the RTS Link that he described as only a short-term solution, compared to building a new bridge that can accommodate both vehicles and people.
Present at the announcement and press conference were Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Azmin Ali and Transport Minister Anthony Loke.
When asked to clarify a statement handed out earlier that the Bukit Chagar landowners would “finance and enable” the project, Loke said the RTS Link station needed to be built on land that belongs to Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.
He explained that the Johor Sultan has given his consent to cooperate with the federal government to build the RTS Link station.
“The government will undertake a private-financing initiative with the companies involved in the construction of the project. Further details will be announced at a later date,” said Loke.
Meanwhile, Loke said RTD Link, which is aimed at easing congestion at the Johor Causeway, will maintain its original alignment linking Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore.
He said the details of the project, including the start and completion dates, will be outlined in an amended bilateral agreement that will be signed early next year.
“We have submitted our new proposed changes to Singapore and they would need time to study it,” said Loke, adding that besides the bilateral agreement, both parties have to sign the joint venture and concession agreements that may take several months.
The four kilometre RTS Link is intended to connect Woodlands North Station on Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast MRT Line to Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru.
Its operations were initially targeted to start by the end of 2024.
The deal, which was originally drawn up between the former Barisan Nasional administration and the Singapore government, is crucial for connectivity between the Republic and Malaysia’s Southern Economic Corridor Iskandar Malaysia, and to resolve long-standing traffic congestion on the Johor Causeway.
The resumption was predicted after Dr Mahathir confirmed that Putrajaya will proceed with the RTS Link during the launch of the National Transport Policy in Kuala Lumpur on October 17.
When tabling Budget 2020, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng also said the federal government “intends to proceed” with the RTS as a long-term solution to address cross-border congestion.