Malaysia, Singapore agree to suspend RTS Link until Sept 30, say ministers

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by BERNAMA

THE Rapid Transit System (RTS) project linking Johor Baru (JB) and Singapore has been suspended until Sept 30, as Malaysia seeks more time to review the scope and costs of the project.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Anthony Loke and his counterpart, Singapore’s Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, have signed a supplemental agreement to formalise the suspension of the RTS Link project.

Under the agreement, Malaysia will reimburse Singapore for costs incurred due to the suspension. It also states that if Malaysia decides to discontinue the project altogether, Malaysia will reimburse Singapore for the costs incurred in fulfilling its RTS Link obligations.

Speaking at a joint media conference in Singapore, Khaw said terminating the project could cost Malaysia about S$66 million (RM200.71 million) and would affect Singapore’s joint-venture (JV) partner SMRT Corp Ltd, as well as contractors and bidders involved in the project.

He said this is similar to the arrangement made when Malaysia requested a suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail project.

Meanwhile, Loke said the supplemental agreement will allow Malaysia some time to explore other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border.

These would include new initiatives such as improvements to the physical infrastructure at the border, review of inter-boundary policies and regulations, and enhancing the quality of cross-border services.

“We appreciate Singapore’s support and understanding on the challenges we face in implementing the RTS Link project. We recognise the urgent need to alleviate the traffic congestion at the JB-Singapore Causeway which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily, affecting approximately 250,000 Malaysians working in Singapore,” Loke said.

Malaysia had earlier sought for a six-month suspension of the project from April 1, saying it is looking for ways to optimise costs. The current deal will cost the Malaysian government RM4 billion to complete the 4km rail line.

The cross-border rail project, which connects Bukit Chagar in JB to Woodlands in Singapore, was supposed to begin operations by Dec 31, 2024, but now faces a delay after Malaysia missed several deadlines.

Malaysia has been requesting for more time to confirm the JV partner for the project. Prasarana Malaysia Bhd was initially selected to partner Singapore’s SMRT Corp as the operator, with the appointment scheduled for June 2018.

However, following the change in government after the May 9 general election last year, the Pakatan Harapan government sought a review of large-scale federal infrastructure projects in hopes to reduce costs.