Parliament: Singapore, KL need to sign 3 pacts on RTS by end-April: Khaw Boon Wan

KL asked to extend project's suspension by 6 months on Oct 29, 2 days before deadline

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan

Singapore and Malaysia will need to sign three agreements by the end of next April on the cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

In a written parliamentary reply yesterday, Mr Khaw revealed that Malaysia had requested last Tuesday to extend the suspension of the RTS project for a third time, till April 30 next year.

Singapore agreed to the further six-month suspension in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced last Thursday that Malaysia had decided to proceed with the project, but he made no mention of its request to extend the suspension period.

In his written reply to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Mr Khaw said both sides are currently discussing Malaysia's proposed changes to the project, which would require amending the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement.

Two other agreements will need to be signed at the same time by the end of the suspension period aside from the amended bilateral agreement, he added.

These are an agreement between Singapore's SMRT and Malaysia's national rail operator Prasarana Malaysia to form a joint venture operating company, and a concession agreement between both countries' governments to appoint the joint venture as the RTS Link operator.

Both of these agreements were originally due to be inked last year.

Malaysia had earlier requested to suspend construction of the RTS project for six months from April 1 this year, to have more time to study ways to reduce the project cost.

On May 21, both countries signed a supplemental agreement to suspend the project till Sept 30 this year. As part of the deal, Malaysia agreed to reimburse Singapore more than $600,000 for abortive costs incurred.

Mr Khaw recounted how Singapore received Malaysia's request on Sept 20 to extend the suspension to Oct 31, which the Republic agreed to. On Oct 21, Malaysia told Singapore that it intended to proceed with the RTS Link, with some changes, he said. However, it was not ready to share details of the proposed changes with Singapore.

"Without the details, Malaysia's proposal is incomplete and Singapore is unable to make a thorough assessment of the technical and commercial feasibility of the proposal," added Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

In announcing its intention to proceed with the RTS Link on Oct 31, the Malaysian government also proposed amending the project's scope and structure to cut costs by 36 per cent. These include the use of a Light Rail Transit system, instead of using Singapore's MRT system as originally planned.

"While we are not obliged to accept Malaysia's proposed changes, we will continue to keep an open mind and assess them carefully and objectively," Mr Khaw said.

The RTS project, which has seen several delays, was earlier slated to begin operations by Dec 31, 2024.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2019, with the headline Singapore, KL need to sign 3 pacts on RTS by end-April: Khaw Boon Wan. Subscribe