JB-Singapore rail link agreement to be inked on July 30; construction to start January 2021

The project is estimated to cost around RM3.7 billion (S$1.2 billion). PHOTO: LTA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia and Singapore will ink agreements to finalise the much delayed Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project on July 30, Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said on Tuesday (July 21).

He added that both countries have completed discussions on the cross-border project, first announced in 2010, and will sign three agreements.

The three key agreements refer to the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement between the two governments, the joint venture agreement between Singapore's SMRT Corporation and Malaysia's Prasarana Malaysia to constitute a joint venture operating company, and a concession agreement for the two governments to appoint this operating company as the RTS Link operator.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Singapore's Transport Ministry said Malaysia and Singapore have been in intensive discussions on the resumption of the RTS Link project.

Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Khaw Boon Wan said on his Facebook page: "Six months of intensive discussions, meeting almost daily, often late into the night, via teleconference in recent months, have come to a close."

Mr Khaw, who is retiring from politics, said there is now an agreed text on the changes to the project, for presentation to both governments for approval.

Datuk Seri Wee told a news conference held in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur that the signing ceremony will be held on July 30 at the Causeway, and will be witnessed by the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia.

The RTS Link will be the second rail link between the two countries after the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Tebrau Shuttle Service.

The 4km link will connect Woodlands North station on Singapore's Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar, a planned elevated terminal in Johor Baru.

The KTM shuttle train service will cease operating within six months after the RTS Link becomes operational.

Both countries had acknowledged that there was a need to alleviate traffic congestion at the Johor Baru- Singapore Causeway which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily.

Singapore previously said the RTS Link has a capacity of 10,000 commuters at peak periods, every hour and in one direction. Mr Wee confirmed on Tuesday that it will be based on the LRT system.

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Construction work for the RTS Link is slated to commence in January next year, said Mr Wee, and the rail link is expected to begin operations at end-2026.

He said the project is estimated to cost around RM3.7 billion ($1.21 billion), which includes land acquisition and the cost of relocating a maintenance and operation depot originally planned for Mandai to Johor Baru instead.

In May, Malaysia announced that the bilateral agreement deadline for the RTS Link was extended by three months to July 31 because of the coronavirus and movement control curbs.

The Singapore government said it was the final extension. Malaysia had first requested a six-month extension in March 2019 to respond to Singapore on issues relating to the RTS Link project.

Both countries later inked an agreement in May that year to formalise the suspension until Sept 30, with Malaysia reimbursing Singapore more than $600,000 for abortive costs incurred by the deferment.

Malaysia then requested a second extension of another month until Oct 31 and Singapore agreed. The Covid-19 situation and movement restrictions in both countries saw the deadline moved to July this year.

The initial target date for project completion was Dec 31, 2024. Singapore's Transport Ministry said more details on the project will be announced in due course.

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