Singapore and Malaysia are working towards a supplementary agreement to suspend a cross-border rail link. The civil aviation authorities of both countries are also developing GPS-based instrument approach procedures for Seletar Airport.
These moves were announced by Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at a news conference with his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke at Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday after they met to discuss bilateral transport matters.
The meeting comes ahead of today's Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat in Putrajaya, when Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Mahathir Mohamad will meet to discuss bilateral matters, before being joined by their ministers. Mr Khaw is part of the Singapore delegation.
Mr Khaw said the attorneys-general and officials from both countries are working on an agreement to effect a suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Johor Baru and Woodlands.
He noted that Malaysia has requested a six-month suspension of the 4km RTS Link so it can review key parameters of the project.
"We will approach this issue as we did for the suspension of the HSR Project, with goodwill and reasonable accommodation," he said.
Singapore and Malaysia had last year agreed to a two-year suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Project, with Malaysia paying Singapore $15 million for abortive costs incurred due to the suspension.
Asked if Malaysia will need to pay compensation to Singapore if the RTS project is suspended, Mr Loke said "there is some cost involved", and this will be determined by a review.
Mr Loke also said both sides agree on the need to work on lowering fares for the RTS to encourage more people to use it when ready.
On the new Global Positioning System (GPS)-based instrument procedures at Seletar Airport, Mr Khaw said this will replace the Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedure that Singapore has withdrawn. He added that the procedures are expected to be published soon, and will improve safety for flights at Seletar Airport.
Both sides had announced last Saturday that Malaysia has indefinitely suspended its permanent restricted area, while Singapore withdrew the ILS from Seletar Airport.
The agreement paves the way for Malaysian carrier Firefly to begin flying into Singapore, more than four months after a suspension.
Mr Loke said Firefly will resume its operations to Singapore on April 21. He added that Malaysian airline Malindo is also interested to fly to Seletar, and has applied to do so.
The dispute over Seletar surfaced last November, when Firefly announced that it would not move from Changi Airport to Seletar on Dec 1, as it had earlier agreed to.
Malaysia's civil aviation regulator had objected to the move, citing the ILS, which was put in place at Firefly's request. Malaysia subsequently declared a restricted zone over Pasir Gudang for the purpose of military activities.
On Jan 8, both countries agreed to suspend the restricted area at Pasir Gudang and the ILS for Seletar for a month. This was later extended until the end of last month.
Yesterday, Mr Khaw said both ministries have reached a "win-win outcome" after several rounds of discussions to understand each other's concerns and needs.
He also noted a high-level committee has been set up to review the existing arrangement where Singapore air traffic controllers manage airspace over southern Johor. Malaysia has said it wants to reclaim management of this airspace.
Mr Khaw said he assured Mr Loke that Singapore would approach the review with an open mind, bearing in mind the many stakeholders involved and the critical need to ensure safety and efficiency in a very busy airspace. "With goodwill and compromise, I am sure that a win-win solution which does not undermine each other's core interests can be found," he added.