Singapore agrees to delay RTS but reserves right to claim costs if project is further suspended: MOT

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 has agreed to Malaysia's request for an additional one-month suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, and also agreed to waive additional costs incurred during the period, said a Ministry of Transport (MOT) spokesman.

But Singapore reserves the right to claim any additional costs incurred beyond Sept 30, should Malaysia request any further extensions of the suspension period, which will now end on Oct 31.

Both governments signed a bilateral agreement last year to build the 4km cross-border MRT link from Woodlands in Singapore to Bukit Chagar in Johor to help alleviate congestion on the Causeway.

But in March, Malaysia requested a six-month extension to respond to Singapore on issues relating to the RM4 billion (S$1.3 billion) project. Then in May, both countries agreed to suspend work on the RTS link until Sept 30.

As part of the deal, Malaysia agreed to reimburse Singapore more than $600,000 for abortive costs incurred as a result of the six-month suspension.

In a Straits Times report in May, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said his government was looking at ways to reduce the cost of the RTS, including roping in the private sector.

Reducing infrastructure costs would lower the fare structure in future, which would benefit passengers, Mr Loke added.

Last Saturday (Sept 28), Malaysia's The Star newspaper reported that the deadline was extended by another month after Mr Loke made the request at a recent meeting with his Singapore counterpart Khaw Boon Wan in Sepang.

Mr Loke reportedly said Malaysia needed more time to review the project, and that Singapore's decision to grant the extension was conveyed to Malaysia last Friday.

Malaysia's request has triggered a mixed response from its politicians, with one camp saying it would give the Malaysian government more time to study the impact of the project on the country's debt while some questioned the need to ask for more time.

The Straits Times reported earlier that traffic snarls at the Johor Causeway and Second Link are worsening, especially with the increasing volume of vehicles using both links, and during weekends and public holidays.

At present, more than 367,000 people use the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complexes daily, with 254,000 people using the Johor Baru side, while 113,000 people use the Second Link.

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