Malaysia-Singapore to seal RTS Link’s deal next week

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA and Singapore will sign the cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link agreement at the Causeway on July 30, with construction expected to begin in January next year.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (picture) told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that both countries have reached a pact on the bilateral agreement, the concession agreement and an agreement to form a joint-venture company to operate the line.

He said this in response to a question by Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir (Pakatan Harapan-Johor Baru [JB]) on the status of the rail project.

Wee said the construction of the RTS Link is scheduled to begin immediately once necessary approvals are obtained by January next year, adding that construction will take place in two phases.

The development and civil phase will span from 2021 to end-2024, while the commissioning and testing phase is planned from 2025 until end-2026. The RTS Link is expected to begin operation in six years.

Wee said the cost for the RTS Link project is now RM3.7 billion, compared to RM3.16 million initially projected, after factoring in costs involved to relocate the depot from Mandai in Singapore to JB and to build a maintenance track from Bukit Chagar to Wadihana in Johor.

The suspension on the RTS Link project has been extended three times. The latest extension is valid until July 31 due to measures taken by both countries to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the previous administration, the project was suspended following pledges to review major deals. Both countries had then agreed to reduce the project cost by a third from RM4.93 billion to RM3.16 billion.

The RTS Link is aimed at easing traffic and alleviating congestion on the Causeway. The rail service is expected to have a capacity to accommodate 10,000 passengers per hour upon completion.

On a separate development, Wee said the latest statistics by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) showed that 169,728 flights had been cancelled from January to June 2020 between flag carriers Malaysia Airlines Bhd, AirAsia Group Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd.

The cancellations have affected over four million passengers, Wee said. Of the total, 1.2 million passengers had opted to reschedule their flights, while 1.96 million were given credit shells worth RM124.9 million that can be used to purchase new flight tickets to other destinations. Another 628,070 passengers will be refunded in full, amounting to RM400.8 million.

Wee said airline companies will need 18 months to three years to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic for domestic and international flights respectively.

Mavcom has also projected that airfares would return to average rates as seen in 2019 by November this year. However, this is subject to global measures to contain the virus outbreak.