Singapore-JB RTS link agreement signing delayed again as Malaysia now wants an LRT system instead

Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his Malaysian counterpart, Anthony Loke, looking at aerial shots of the RTS on May 21, 2019. The ministers said on Nov 5 that the signing of an agreement on the project will be delayed due to changes proposed by Malaysia.
The Straits Times

Malaysia may have finally given its word to go ahead with the Singapore-Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS), but it seems commuters will still have to wait for an indefinite amount of time before it becomes reality.

The signing of the agreement will now be delayed till April next year as both countries are currently discussing changes proposed by the Malaysian government, Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

In a written parliamentary reply on Monday (Nov 5), Khaw revealed that Singapore had agreed to another request by Malaysia for a six-month extension till April 30, 2020.

It was in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, and will incur no additional cost on Malaysia’s side, he said.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Anthony Loke, also told Malaysian Parliament on Monday that the two countries are currently discussing the proposed changes, which involve changing the original plan of using Singapore’s mass rapid transit (MRT) system, to a light rail transit (LRT) system similar to the one used in Kuala Lumpur.

According to Loke, Malaysia has so far received a “positive response” from the Republic, the New Straits Times (NST) reported.

“We are not only looking at construction cost, but also operations and passenger fare (among others). We found that the LRT system is sufficient for the rail project, with only two stations, namely, Bukit Chagar on Johor’s side and Woodlands in Singapore.” NST quoted him as saying.

Over in Singapore’s Parliament, Khaw said that Singapore was not obliged to accept these changes, but would “keep an open mind and assess them carefully and objectively.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had announced on Oct 31 the continuation of the RTS link project at a lower cost of RM3.6 billion (S$1 billion), a 36 per cent cut from the initial amount of RM4.93 billion.

The Star reported Dr Mahathir as saying that most of the savings come from land cost involving the proposed station in Bukit Chagar, which was previously owned by the Johor Ruler.

However, he made no mention of the suspension request.

Originally, the 4km RTS link was due to be completed in 2024, but is now behind schedule due to repeated delays – much to the unhappiness of many. 

“The RTS Link will significantly ease Causeway congestion, facilitate business and tourism, and bring our people closer together,” Khaw said on Monday.

The RTS link will have a capacity of 10,000 passengers. An article by The Straits Times in September estimated that more than 367,000 people use the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complexes daily, with 254,000 people using the Johor Baru side and 113,000 people using the Second Link.

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the initial estimated time for the RTS train journey was 10 minutes.

Currently, travellers take between 40 minutes and two hours to pass the 1.06km-long Causeway during peak hours, The Straits Times reported.

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