Passengers will be able to hop on an MRT train in Woodlands to cross the border to Johor Baru by Dec 31, 2024.
The Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link can carry up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station and the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson- East Coast Line (TEL).
It is slated to improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings between Singapore and Malaysia when completed.
The new starting date for the line was announced in a joint statement yesterday after the 13th meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, co-chaired by Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan, who is also Transport Minister.
Also present were Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and senior officials from both countries.
Officials have agreed to jointly appoint an operating company to run and maintain the RTS Link's operating systems, which include its trains, tracks and signalling system.
Singapore has invited SMRT Corp to be part of the joint venture, while Malaysia has asked Prasarana Malaysia, whose subsidiary runs an MRT line through the Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur. Both operators are negotiating terms for the joint venture, which will have a first concession period of 30 years.
Each government will also appoint an infrastructure company to fund, build, own, maintain and upgrade the civil infrastructure and stations in their own countries.
When asked, Mr Khaw reiterated that fares will not be regulated but driven by market forces.
Similar to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail line, the RTS Link will have a joint Customs, immigration and quarantine facility at both terminus stations. This means international-bound travellers will need to clear Customs and immigration only once, when departing from the respective countries.
The daily shuttle train service from Woodlands to Johor Baru will stop operating within six months after the RTS Link opens. It has been running 26 daily trips since June 1 to cope with higher demand, and Mr Khaw said the frequency will go up to 36 trips in the next few years.
He noted that the Woodlands Checkpoint can be redeveloped after the shuttle service ends and land is freed up. "Then, hopefully, this problem of the Causeway jam can be significantly mitigated or even eliminated," he added.
During the meeting, officials also discussed the high-speed rail line, immigration, industrial cooperation and the environment.
An agreement on the cross- border MRT line is expected to be signed by the end of this year.
The RTS Link was announced in May 2010, with the target completion date set for 2018.
In 2015, Malaysia chose Bukit Chagar as the main terminal station for the 4km line, which will use the same rail systems and rolling stock as the 31-station TEL. The TEL will open in phases from 2019 to 2024.
Trains will ply between both terminus stations via a 25m-high bridge across the Strait of Johor.
Commuters like Mr Lee Chee Hua are looking forward to RTS Link.
The 66-year-old retiree visits Johor Baru at least once a month to eat and shop. "It will be more convenient and seamless than going via the Woodlands train checkpoint."