Deadline deferral is possible with Singapore-Johor Baru RTS project: MOT

An artist's impression of Woodlands North station, which would be connected to Johor Baru by the Rapid Transit System Link.
An artist's impression of Woodlands North station, which would be connected to Johor Baru by the Rapid Transit System Link.PHOTO: LTA

SINGAPORE - Singapore said it is “possible to defer project deadlines and review parameters” in response to Malaysia’s request for six more months to deliberate on a cross-border rail link between Johor Baru and Woodlands.

This is provided it is done within the framework of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link Bilateral Agreement and with the mutual consent of both countries, said Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) in a statement on Thursday (April 4).

"For example, Malaysia can request to suspend the RTS Link Project, as was done for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail Project," the ministry said.

Alternatively, Malaysia can terminate the existing bilateral agreement and request to negotiate a fresh agreement with Singapore.

The MOT noted that on March 27, Malaysia requested a six-month deadline extension for it to respond to Singapore on matters related to the RTS Link Project.

This is while Malaysia "reviews the RTS Link Project's scope, structure and costs previously agreed between the two countries", the MOT added.

The legally-binding bilateral agreement to build the 4km cross-border link - which would connect Woodlands North station on Singapore's Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru - was signed in January last year.

 
 
 

The agreement states that the line is to start operating by Dec 31, 2024.

However, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament last month that the RTS Link service was no longer on track to start by that date.

Malaysia has sought several extensions to a deadline to confirm its partner for the RTS Link's joint venture.

The joint venture, comprising Singapore's SMRT and Malaysia's Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, should have been formed by June 30 last year.

The venture should then have been appointed as the RTS Link operator, through a concession agreement with Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Malaysian government, by last September.

However, Malaysia indicated it was considering replacing its joint venture partner.

It has delayed confirming this partner three times, first in September last year, then December. On Dec 28, it asked to be given until Feb 28 this year to do so.

Dr Balakrishnan told Parliament last month that on Feb 28, Malaysia asked for another extension of this deadline, to March 31.

He said both governments are at the stage where they are obliged to jointly call an open tender to appoint the RTS Link operating company (OpCo).

"In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, Singapore has been willing to engage Malaysia on its proposals for Malaysia's joint venture (JV) partner for the RTS Link OpCo," he said.

"Unfortunately, Malaysia has repeatedly delayed confirming its JV partner."

On Monday, Malaysia's Transport Minister Anthony Loke said his country needs until September to study how it can reduce the cost of the RTS and how the link will be utilised, according to Malaysian media reports.

Mr Loke estimated its cost at RM4 billion (S$1.33 billion).