Singapore and Malaysia hope to sign an agreement for a cross-border MRT system, linked by a high bridge between Johor and Woodlands, by the end of 2017.
The Rapid Transit System link will connect Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station to the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).
Announcing this at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said a high bridge was the "best solution".
"This was a major point: How are we going to cross the Strait of Johor - high bridge, low bridge, tunnel?" PM Lee said. "After extensive discussions, we have agreed that a high bridge is the best solution and that clears the way for us to work towards a bilateral agreement, which I hope we can sign by the end of next year."
Both leaders said in a joint statement that the link will improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings when completed.
It will be operated by a corporate entity, which will set fares based on the market. Fares will not be regulated by the governments.
PM Lee and Mr Najib endorsed the technical details for the link at their annual Leaders' Retreat here.
The Rapid Transit System link was first announced by Singapore and Malaysia in May 2010, and was initially targeted to be ready by 2018. A new completion date and the detailed alignment for the link have not been finalised yet.
The second phase of a joint engineering study for the project began in April, and is still ongoing. A Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said that both sides are meeting frequently to finalise the detailed design by next year.
Separately, the LTA awarded a contract to a consortium comprising AECOM, MVA and KPMG to conduct a ridership and commercial study in June.
The ridership study is likely to be completed this year, and its findings will be used in the commercial study expected to be concluded by next year, said the LTA spokesman.
The cross-border service will use the same rail systems and rolling stock as the TEL to reap economies of scale, the joint statement by both prime ministers said.
US conglomerate GE has been appointed to supply the signalling system and platform screen doors for the TEL.
Singapore Technologies Electronics will provide the communication systems for the line, including video surveillance and travel information systems.
The LTA has bought 91 four-car trains for the TEL, awarding a contract to a consortium formed by Japanese firm Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Chinese company CSR Qingdao Sifang Co.
The 31-station TEL, which runs from Woodlands to Sungei Bedok in the east, will open in phases from 2019 to 2024.
Yesterday, both leaders also reiterated their commitment to promote and explore more ways to enhance connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia.
They noted that daily train services from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to Johor Baru have gone up to 24 today, compared with 14 during last year's retreat.
In addition, they took note of discussions to study new ferry routes between Singapore and Johor, and Malaysia's request to extend an agreement to build and operate a ferry terminal and run a ferry service between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
Malaysia has also proposed to refurbish the facilities at Changi Ferry Terminal, which has services to Tanjung Belungkor, from where passengers can travel on to Desaru.