MERSING/ISKANDAR PUTERI - The Sultan of Johor has expressed serious reservations about the proposed curve-shaped design of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Malaysia and Singapore, and a plan to build a bridge as high as 30m above water in the middle section.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said while he welcomed the project, the curved design of the rail link between Woodlands in Singapore and Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru was impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly.
"Why do we have to have a curved design when we can have a more practical design that is straighter and closer to the Causeway?" he said in an exclusive interview with Malaysia's New Straits Times (NST) Press Group.
"I am proposing that the design be aligned as such for practicality and it will cost less," he said.
He also questioned the need for an elevated bridge, according to the report.
"Why do they need an elevated bridge with up to 30m air draft (clearance height from water to a vessel's height) unless there are plans to remove the Causeway?" he said.
"It disrupts the city skyline, and we are talking about a permanent fixture here. Go back to the drawing board and review the overall plan.
"The parties also have to consult me. Whatever (new plan) is presented to me, it will have to be logical, economical and sustainable for the benefit of not only Johoreans but all Malaysians and Singaporeans," he was quoted as saying.
He proposed a design that he said could be the same height as the Causeway or slightly elevated.
Sultan Ibrahim also questioned the need for Malaysia and Singapore to have separate contractors to build portions of the rail link in their respective countries. He suggested that the project be undertaken by a single contractor through a joint venture between the two sides.
He said he would raise his concerns over the design in a meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month, and would convey the points from the discussion to the Malaysian government and the media.
The Johor state government supports Sultan Ibrahim's view, Mentri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin said later on Tuesday according to The Star.
"We have taken note of Tuanku's views and we support it and will forward the suggestions to Kuala Lumpur (the Federal Government)," Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled was quoted as saying.
"The decision to develop the RTS is still being negotiated between the two countries and the fine-tuning of the details of the project are open for discussion," he said.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, a Ministry of Transport spokesman said on Tuesday: "Singapore is committed to the RTS Link project, and we have been discussing its various aspects with the Malaysian Government since 2010, through the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia (JMC).”
The RTS Link can carry up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station and the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson- East Coast Line (TEL).
It is slated to improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings between Singapore and Malaysia when completed.
Both countries have agreed to jointly appoint an operating company to run and maintain the cross-border line's operating systems, which include trains, tracks and signalling system. Singapore has invited SMRT Corp to be part of the joint venture, while Malaysia has asked Prasarana Malaysia, whose subsidiary runs an MRT line through the Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur.
Both operators are negotiating terms for the joint venture, which will have a first concession period of 30 years.
"Why must it be Prasarana? Why not the Johor government? Please remember that land is a state matter. My priority is the people of Johor: that they are happy with what is being decided," Sultan Ibrahim said during the interview.
While he was in total agreement with the project, he said the Johor government should undertake a joint venture with Singapore.
"The project is entirely in Johor; so why should Prasarana be involved? Let the Johor government and Singapore have a joint-venture and I can raise funds if need be."