Malaysia confident of meeting July 31 deadline of JB-Singapore rail link agreement

Singapore has agreed to further extend the suspension "for a third and final time". PHOTO: KHAW BOON WAN/FACEBOOK

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia is confident of meeting the July 31 deadline for the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, said Senior Minister Azmin Ali.

He said there were 222 unresolved issues on the project.

"However, both countries have successfully solved 220 issues pertaining to the RTS project. We have only two more issues and a technical committee will meet on July 13 to discuss them," he said when met after attending a roundtable discussion with local industry players in Johor on Saturday (July 4).

Datuk Seri Azmin, who is International Trade and Industry Minister, however, declined to elaborate on the two issues, which he would leave it to the technical committee to discuss which needed approval from both countries.

"I have spoken to the Transport Ministry and was given the assurance that both teams will be able to resolve the two remaining issues. This is important because we have until the end of this month to conclude the whole process of negotiation pertaining to the RTS, " he added.

In May, Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said the bilateral agreement deadline for the much delayed project has been extended by three months to July 31. The extension was sought by Malaysia due to impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the Republic has agreed to further extend the suspension "for a third and final time".

Mr Azmin stressed on Saturday that the RTS project was important, in particular for locals who travel daily into and from Singapore for work and to ease congestion at the Causeway.

Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, who was present during the discussion, said the latest development was good news to the state.

"The RTS will finally become a reality and it would be a game changer for Johor, " he said, adding that the project would help create a supply chain involving various sectors here.

The RTS will be the second rail link between Malaysia and Singapore after the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Tebrau Shuttle Service.

However, the KTM shuttle train service will have to cease operating within six months after the RTS becomes operational.

Malaysia and Singapore signed a deal in May last year to suspend the RTS project until Sept 30, with Malaysia reimbursing the Republic $600,000 for abortive costs.

Malaysia later requested an extension of another month until Oct 31 and Singapore agreed.

Malaysia then decided to proceed with the construction, with amendments to the scope and structure of the project proposed to cut costs by 36 per cent.

The legally binding agreement to build the RTS Link, which would connect Woodlands North station on Singapore's Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar, was signed in January 2018.

In response to a query, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said: "Malaysia and Singapore have been in intensive discussions on the RTS Link Project. Like Malaysia, we are optimistic that the discussions on the outstanding matters can be concluded by the 31 July 2020 deadline. More details will be announced closer to the date."

Additional reporting by Cheryl Tan

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