SINGAPORE: The Bukit Chagar area in Johor Bahru could become the city’s next transport hub if the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project materialises, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Tuesday (May 21).
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a visit to the RTS Link construction site at Singapore’s Woodlands North, Mr Loke said: “At the Johor Bahru side (of the RTS), the train will stop at Bukit Chagar and the connectivity from Bukit Chagar to the rest of Johor Bahru is important."
He said that by 2022, Johor Bahru's transport system will be enhanced with the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
The BRT project, conceptualised by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), will connect 90 per cent of Iskandar Malaysia with buses that will ply routes from Bukit Chagar or downtown Johor Bahru to other towns and cities.
Mr Loke noted that the BRT would connect commuters who arrive at Bukit Chagar from Woodlands “back to their respective houses in Johor Bahru”.
The RTS Link is expected to ferry up to 10,000 passengers per hour each way.
The project was meant to be completed by 2024, but it is now behind schedule.
Earlier in the day, both sides signed a supplemental agreement to suspend the construction of the project until Sep 30 following Malaysia's request.
During the suspension period, Malaysia will decide if it intends to proceed with the RTS Link project as it is. If not, the project will be deemed to have been terminated by Malaysia, and Malaysia will reimburse Singapore for the costs incurred in fulfilling its RTS Link obligations until now.
Mr Loke’s comments came after he toured the construction site for the Woodlands North MRT station alongside his Singaporean counterpart, Mr Khaw Boon Wan. The MRT station will be linked to the RTS station on the Singapore side when the RTS Link project is completed.
Mr Loke said that the site visit gave him a better understanding of the RTS Link project, and highlighted the importance of integrating the rail stations with other modes of transport.
BRT NOT MEANT TO REPLACE RTS LINK, SAYS LOKE
He stressed that the BRT is not meant to replace the RTS Link project, but rather complement it, especially for the Johor Bahru residents who commute to Singapore daily for work.
“At this point of time, the proposal by IRDA is for the BRT to (connect commuters) within the entire Johor Bahru. It is not to replace the RTS Link (between Johor Bahru and Singapore),” he said.
On the future of the RTS Link project, Mr Loke reiterated that the Malaysian government wants it to go ahead, but he maintained that there needs to be a more effective way to fund the costs of building it.
He said building the RTS would cost the Malaysian federal government around RM4 billion (US$956.48 million), and that discussions are ongoing with some companies in the private sector to play a role in the project.
“We do not want to pre-empt or come to any conclusion at this point of time (on future of the RTS Link project) but of course we are looking at various options on what is the best way forward,” he said.
Posting on his Facebook page, Mr Khaw said the suspension is a “temporary setback”.
“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.”