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Malaysian Transport Minister said he understands the RTS project better after Khaw Boon Wan took him on a tour of Woodlands North MRT

Both countries re-start efforts towards easing border congestion through better and lower-cost public transport.

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Singapore— After the suspension of the Singapore-Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link had been announced, Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan took his Malaysian counterpart, Anthony Loke, on a tour of Woodlands North MRT station on the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

When the tour ended, the Malaysian transport minister professed that he understood the whole RTS project better, admitting that it is sensible to integrate the RTS with the TEL in Singapore for the reason that it provided connectivity.

However, Mr Loke also told Mr Khaw that connectivity on the side of Johor Bahru holds the same amount of importance. Therefore, he deemed it important to make sure that the Malaysian end of the RTS in Bukit Chagar also had sufficient connectivity to the rest of Johor Bahru.

And, if the RTS project does push through, it would make Bukit Chagar a major transportation hub for Johor Bahru.

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He told the press during the tour at Woodlands North, he said: “At the Johor Bahru side, the train will stop at Bukit Chagar and the connectivity from Bukit Chagar to the rest of Johor Bahru is important.”

He also mentioned that one thing that would help in this regard is the proposal from the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to roll out a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that commuters could use to return to their homes.

According to Mr Loke, by 2022, Johor Bahru’s transport system will be enhanced with the BRT, which will connect 90 percent of Iskandar Malaysia with buses that will travel from Bukit Chagar or downtown Johor Bahru to other towns and cities.

IRDA director Rudyanto Azhar said that the BRT would have the best of both worlds— the speed of a light rail system with the affordability of a regular bus system.

Mr Khaw and his team gave Mr Loke a tour of the construction site of the MRT station, and briefed him on the facilities of the RTS Link station, showing him how far the work has gotten thus far.

The RTS Link is able to bring as many as 10,000 passengers every hour in both directions and was supposed to have been finished by 2024.

However, the project had fallen behind schedule last year, and as of yesterday, has been suspended until September 30 of this year.

Mr Khaw wrote about the suspension of the RTS project on his Facebook account after it was announced, calling it “a temporary setback for the RTS project” and expressing optimism that the project would resume at the right time.

He wrote, “At Malaysia’s request and in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, Singapore has agreed to suspend the construction of the JB–Singapore #RTSLink Project for a period up to 30 September 2019. Malaysia will bear the abortive costs in suspending the RTS Link Project. If by 30 September 2019, Malaysia does not proceed with the RTS Link Project, Malaysia will also bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement (BA).

Earlier today, Malaysia Transport Minister Anthony Loke and I exchanged legal documents in Singapore to vary the BA based on the new understanding. This is a temporary setback for the RTS project. But I remain optimistic that the project could resume in due course. The cross-border congestion is real and only a decisive project like the RTS can make a material difference to the current situation.”

On his part, the Malaysian Transport Minister wrote that the deferment of the RTS project would give Malaysia more time “to explore other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border.”

He also extended thanks to Mr Khaw “and the officials involved who have worked tirelessly for this signing of the Supplemental Agreement for the suspension of the RTS Link project.” /TISG

Read related: MOT says its “possible” for Malaysia to be given a 6-month extension for RTS link, but with mutual consent

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