MRT service between Singapore and JB to start by end-2024

Mr Khaw, Mr Wong and Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan at the 13th meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee.
Berita Harian

Commuters who shuttle between Singapore and Johor Baru will be able to do so via a cross-border MRT system linking the two countries by December 31, 2024.

This was announced in a joint statement yesterday (July 31) after the 13th meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia – a collaboration which began in 2007.

Co-chairing the meeting was Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

According to The Straits Times, the ministers said that a bilateral agreement on the Singapore-Johor Baru Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link will be signed by December this year.

First announced in 2010 with a target completion date of 2018, Singapore has confirmed that its RTS terminus will be located at the Woodlands North station along the upcoming Thomson-East Coast MRT line (TEL).

On the other side, Malaysia has selected Bukit Chagar as its main terminal and both stations will be linked by a 25m-high bridge across the Strait of Johor.

Once the RTS Link commences service, the Tebrau train service run by Malaysian railway operator KTMB will cease operations within half a year.

KTMB has been running 26 daily trips since June 1 to cope with greater demand, but Mr Khaw said in a report by Today that the frequency will increase to 36 trips over the next few years.

In the same article, he said that once the service is terminated, the land will be subjected to “a more decisive redevelopment of the (Woodlands) checkpoint” in an effort to reduce the congestion in the area.

With an expected handling capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction between the two terminals, the new cross-border system is slated to improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings between the two countries.

Similar to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail, the RTS Link will include a joint customs, immigration and quarantine facility at both stations, reported The Straits Times.

This means travellers will need to clear customs and immigration only once when crossing the border.

Both governments also agreed to jointly appoint an operating company to maintain operations of the RTS Link. Metro operators SMRT Corp and Prasarana are reportedly being considered.

A subsidiary of Prasarana currently runs the MRT line running through Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur, which Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has praised as “a world-class project”.

If both companies are appointed, they will have a first concession period of 30 years.

According to Mr Khaw, Singapore had preferred to call an international tender to operate the link and award it to the best bidder but Malaysia was not in agreement.

He said, in a quote carried by Channel NewsAsia: “After discussing with our Malaysian counterparts, they felt the project is a little too small, and may not attract competitive bids.”

“So the decision was, maybe we will forget about tendering this particular tender, and work towards negotiating a contract – at least for the first concession – with an experienced operator.”

According to The Star, Datuk Abdul Rahman stated that 61% of concession payment will go to Singapore and 39% to Malaysia because “the cost for (Singapore) to build the RTS line is higher compared to Malaysia’s portion”.

Fares however, will not be regulated, and instead be “purely market-driven”, according to Mr Khaw.