SINGAPORE — After three delays and more than a year, Singapore and Malaysia officially relaunched the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link in a signing ceremony at the Causeway on Thursday morning (30 July).
In a joint statement, the two countries said they had agreed on the following key changes to the project:
The RTS Link will be a standalone Light Rail Transit (LRT) System, instead of leveraging the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. The RTS Link’s capacity remains unchanged at up to 10,000 passengers per hour per direction.
The RTS Link will no longer use the existing TEL Mandai Depot. Instead, a new depot will be constructed in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Both governments will separately appoint an infrastructure company (InfraCo) to fund, build, own, maintain and renew the civil infrastructure and stations in its territory up to the international boundary. Malaysia has changed its InfraCo from Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to Malaysia Rapid Transit System Sdn. Bhd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn. Bhd. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) remains as Singapore’s InfraCo.
The targeted passenger service commencement date will be deferred from end-2024 to end-2026.
The RTS Link will continue to feature co-location of customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) facilities, so that passengers undergo CIQ clearance only once at their point of departure. Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that the RTS Link stations will be well integrated with the local transport networks in each country.
“The successful resumption of the RTS Link Project underscores the deep and enduring bilateral relationship between both countries,” said the two countries.
According to media reports, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted after the ceremony that the project had been delayed “because of the political changes and transitions in Malaysia, partly because of projects, partly because of COVID-19”.
Nevertheless, the RTS Link is a “constructive, valuable project”, said Lee, as it will make commuting easier.
When asked about the status of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, Lee said that both countries are still in discussions on the matter.
In May, the project was delayed till the end of the year.
A long delay
The RTS Link Project has been suspended since 1 April 2019 at Malaysia’s request, with the third and final extension announced in May 2020.
Set to connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru to Woodlands, the RTS Link 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. The suspension was extended from 31 October to 30 April, before this current extension.
The signing ceremony took place at the international boundary line on the Causeway due to prevailing COVID-19 restrictions on border crossings.
It was witnessed by Lee and his Malaysian counterpart Muhyiddin Yassin. It was the first time that the two men had met in person since the latter came to power in March, when the Perikatan Nasional coalition seized the reins of government after Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation as PM.
Other officials from both countries were also present, including Transport Ministers Ong Ye Kung and Wee Ka Siong, as well as Ong’s predecessor Khaw Boon Wan.
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