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Khaw Boon Wan: JB-S’pore RTS Link set to proceed, but suspension extended to April 2020

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Singapore—In an answer to a parliamentary question on November 4, Monday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that the suspension of the construction of the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project has been extended to April 30, 2020.

Mr Khaw’s announcement comes on the heels of Malaysia’s confirmation on October 31 that the RTS project would proceed, albeit with a cost cut of 36 percent.

The Transport Minister added that Malaysia has not yet shared with Singapore the details concerning their proposed changes to the original plan to construct the RTS link.

He said in a written response, “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,” adding that Malaysia had asked for another six-month extension of the suspension period, to April 30 of next year, to which Singapore agreed.

“In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, Singapore agreed to Malaysia’s request to further extend the suspension period.”

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The Transport Minister added, “Singapore welcomes Malaysia’s decision to proceed with the RTS Link Project. This is a mutually beneficial project for both countries. The RTS Link will significantly ease Causeway congestion, facilitate business and tourism, and bring our people closer together.

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.”

He also said that there are two other agreements that need to be signed, aside from the re-stated Bilateral Agreement, which are the Joint Venture Agreement between Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to constitute a joint venture Operating Company or “OpCo”, as well as a Concession Agreement for the Singapore and Malaysian Governments to appoint the OpCo as the RTS Link operator, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reports.

“The discussions will take some time, and both sides are working hard on this,” Mr Khaw said.

An estimated 10,000 commuters per hour are expected to be served by the new RTS link, in a system similar to Light Rail Transit in Kuala Lumpur. 

On October 31, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed in a press conference that the RTS Link would indeed be constructed. Work on the link would resume without further delay, he added, and that the link would be built with a cost cut of 36 percent, “from RM4.93 billion to RM3.16 billion.”

The link was originally planned in order to reduce the heavy traffic on the Johor Causeway and connect Singapore to the Southern Economic Corridor Iskandar Malaysia.

The agreement to build the link had been signed between the Government of Singapore and the administration of then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, who lost his bid for re-election in the May 2018 elections.

The project was put on hold when Dr Mahathir began his term, as his administration evaluated the currents and their corresponding costs.

For a time, there was uncertainty whether the project would continue or not, since in May the two countries agreeing to suspend works on the link until September 30. And in September, another month was added to the suspension with no extra costs.

But Dr Mahathir had already confirmed earlier in the month that his government would push through with the project, when the Malaysian Government launched its National Transport Policy in Kuala Lumpur on October 17.

Even earlier,  Lim Guan Eng, Malaysia’s Finance Minister, also said that the Government “intends to proceed” with the link when he tabled the national budget for next year./ TISG

Read related: MOT: Malaysia’s decision to proceed with JB-S’pore RTS ‘welcome’

MOT: Malaysia’s decision to proceed with JB-S’pore RTS ‘welcome’

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