SINGAPORE — Singapore has confirmed that the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project suspension will be extended for a third and final time to 31 July.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) confirmed the extension in a media response to a statement by Malaysia Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, who said on Saturday (2 May) that the bilateral agreement deadline of the RTS Link project has been extended by three months.
Wee had said that this was due to many economic and social sectors being adversely affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MOT said that measures by both countries to curb the spread of COVID-19 have affected discussions on the project.
“Malaysia's Movement Control Order and Singapore's circuit breaker (measures) have indeed affected the pace of our discussions,” it said in its media response.
“Like Malaysia, we are optimistic that the discussions on the outstanding matters can be concluded within three months, using tele-conferencing and other means of communication.”
MOT said that the task now is to conclude three key agreements in time, so that they can be signed by 31 July. The three agreements are:
the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement between the two governments;
the Joint Venture Agreement between Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to constitute a joint-venture operating company;
a Concession Agreement for the two governments to appoint this operating company as the RTS Link operator.
Khaw Boon Wan confirms extension
Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan confirmed the extension of the project suspension, and said that he has asked MOT, SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to work immediately with their Malaysian counterparts to wrap up discussions speedily.
“The RTS Link Project has been suspended since 1 April 2019 to allow Malaysia to review the project and to suggest changes for Singapore’s consideration,” Khaw said in a post on his Facebook page on Saturday.
“There have been active bilateral discussions on Malaysia’s proposed changes over the months. The pace has been affected by a number of events, including the change of government in Malaysia. COVID-19 added a new spanner in the works.
“At Malaysia’s request, we have agreed to further extend the suspension, for a third and final time, to 31 July 2020. As this is a final extension, I have asked our teams (MOT, LTA and SMRT) to work immediately with their Malaysian counterparts to wrap up the discussions speedily.
“Fortunately, technology is available for us to discuss and negotiate, though nothing quite replaces face-to-face dialogue. But it can’t be helped, this is an unusual time.”
Set to connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru to Woodlands, the RTS Link was supposed to be completed by 2024 but fell behind schedule due to Malaysia’s repeated delays in confirming its joint venture partner.
In May last year, both countries signed an agreement to suspend the RTS project for six months, with Malaysia bearing the abortive costs of suspending the project amounting to some $600,000. This suspension was extended from 31 October to 30 April, before this current extension.
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