JOHOR BAHRU: Malaysia began construction for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project between Singapore and Johor on Sunday (Nov 22) with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site for the Bukit Chagar station.
The event was attended virtually by Johor's ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, Johor CrownPrince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad and other government officials.
During the ceremony, Malaysia officials also announced that 40 per cent of the infrastructure costs borne by the Malaysia government for the project will be set aside for bumiputera contractors, including companies in Johor.
The RTS Link aims to connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru to Woodlands in Singapore, serving about 10,000 passengers per hour each way to help ease traffic congestion on the Causeway. Passenger services is targeted to start from end-2026.
The groundbreaking event marks a major milestone for Malaysia Rapid Transit System (MRTS), the developer and owner of the civil infrastructure for the Malaysian section of the RTS Link.
The Bukit Chagar station will feature a four-storey building, encompassing the train platform and an immigration, customs and quarantine complex (CIQ), said MRTS chief executive Mohd Zarif Hashim in a speech.
The project facility will be part of a transit-oriented development with an adjoining transport hub and mixed property development, he added.
"The RTS Link project is a rail project which is fast and efficient, to facilitate more convenient travel between Singapore and Malaysia, especially for the comfort of Johor residents. It will connect the Bukit Chagar station, which is located next to the JB Sentral station, to the Woodlands North station in Singapore 4km away," said Mohd Zarif.
He explained that the rail line would pass through JB Sentral, make a curve along Jalan Ismail Sultan before moving to Selak Tebrau and towards the Woodlands North station in Singapore.
Construction and civil infrastructure is expected to take four years, and the installation of the rail system will take another two years.
"This project is supposed to go live on Dec 31, 2026," said Mr Mohd Zarif.
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CONSTRUCTION RESERVED FOR BUMIPUTERA CONTRACTORS, JOHOR COMPANIES
The total cost of the RTS project is estimated at RM10 billion (S$3.24 billion). Both governments have agreed to a split of 61:39, with Malaysia forking out RM3.716 billion for the project.
Mr Mohd Zarif said that this cost includes system operations as well as development of the ICQ complex in Bukit Chagar station, and that 40 per cent of the amount for the infrastructure has been set aside for bumiputera companies.
“Forty per cent of the total infrastructure construction cost will be allocated to Bumiputera contractors, including those from Grade 1 to Grade 6 from Johor," said Mr Mohd Zarif.
He added that Malaysian company Adil Permata has been appointed as the contractor to do early work, such as cleaning the site for the station and shifting utilities in the area.
"The RTS Link project will expand the supply chain and develop the rail technology industry in Johor and provide jobs with the depot in Wadi Hana," said Mr Mohd Zarif.
The depot will be located 1km away from Bukit Chagar station.
Mr Mohd Zarif added that Sultan Ibrahim has also agreed to organise a contest for members of the public to suggest possible designs for the station's external facade.
Mr Mohd Zarif said the designs must "reflect characteristic of the state of Johor" and have "nostalgic elements" of how Malaysia's main rail operator KTM originated in the state.
The project was meant to be completed in 2024, but work on the project was earlier suspended at Malaysia’s request.
In July, leaders from Singapore and Malaysia held a ceremony at the Causeway to mark the official resumption of the project.
Previously, it was announced that the construction would happen in two phases. The development and civil phase will take place from 2021 to end of 2024, while the commissioning and testing phase will take place from 2025 until the end of 2026.
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RTS LINK TO CUT SINGAPORE-JB TRAVEL TIME TO 5 MINS
Speaking at a press conference after the event, Mr Mohd Zarif confirmed some operation details for the project.
He said that there will be eight set of trains operating each time, with each train having four cabin compartments.
The train will take five minutes to travel one way between Woodlands North station and Bukit Chagar station, and the waiting time for the trains will be about three-and-a-half minutes during peak period, and six minutes during non-peak period.
Mr Mohd Zarif added that the station will operate between 6am and midnight, but he maintained that there could be flexibility in starting earlier, at around 5.30am.
On ticket prices, he said that this has not been decided yet but assured commuters that it will be benchmarked against the costs of crossing the Causeway presently.
"It will be competitive to encourage the people to use the train facilities," he added.