Timeline of developments in RTS Link project

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin and PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Causeway, on July 30, 2020.
Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin and PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Causeway, on July 30, 2020.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Singapore and Malaysia held a ceremony on Thursday (July 30) to resume work on the cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Woodlands and Johor Baru.

The new expected operation date for the cross-border project will be the end of 2026, instead of end-2024.

When it is ready, the RTS Link will connect passengers between Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station and the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North. 

Here's a look at the developments in the project:

May 2010: The cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link is first announced, and initially targeted to be ready by 2018.

December 2016: Leaders of both countries say they hope to sign an agreement by end-2017 for the MRT system. A joint statement says the link will use the same rail systems and rolling stock as the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line, to which it will connect at the Woodlands North station in Singapore, to reap economies of scale.

August 2017: New starting date of Dec 31, 2024, for the project announced after a Malaysia-Singapore joint meeting.

January 2018: Both countries sign a legally binding bilateral agreement to build the RTS Link. Construction of the 4km link is expected to start in 2019. May 2018: New Pakatan Harapan government comes to power after the Malaysian general election. New Transport Minister Anthony Loke says Malaysia will go ahead with the project, but it is looking at ways to reduce the costs.

January 2019: Then Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan says the project is "behind schedule and not progressing well", and will likely be delayed beyond the original target date of 2024. Several milestones set out in the January 2018 agreement have been missed, he says.

March 2019: Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan tells Parliament that while Singapore had been willing to engage with Malaysia, Malaysia had repeatedly delayed confirming its joint venture partner for the project. Further delays for the project are likely, he adds.

April 2019: Project is suspended at Malaysia's request for an initial six months to review its scope, structure and costs.

May 2019: Both countries sign an agreement to formalise the suspension till end-September. Malaysia has to pay Singapore more than $600,000 for the abortive costs incurred.

September 2019: The deadline is extended for one more month.

October 2019: Malaysia proposes using an LRT system instead of Singapore's MRT system to bring down costs in terms of capital expenditures and operations.

It also requests a six-month extension till April 30.

May 2020: The deadline is extended by another three months to July 31, due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is the third and final extension of the suspension at Malaysia's request.

July 2020: The project is officially resumed, with operations expected to start in end-2026.

Both sides announce that the link will use a standalone LRT system, instead of the same trains and systems as the Thomson-East Coast Line.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2020, with the headline 'Developments in RTS Link project'. Print Edition | Subscribe