KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has requested a six-month extension from Singapore before making a decision on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Monday (Apr 1).
He said the request for the extension until September, after a deadline for Putrajaya to confirm its venture partner lapsed on Mar 31, will enable the government to examine several issues including the cost of implementing the project.
"We are asking for more time from the Singapore government for us to study other options. Of course, we are looking at the cost of the project, how we can reduce (the cost) further, and how we utilise the project," he told reporters when asked to comment on the matter at the Parliament lobby.
The Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link, which connects Bukit Chagar to Woodlands, is expected to ferry up to 10,000 passengers per hour each way.
The project was meant to be completed by 2024, but is now behind schedule with Malaysia repeatedly delaying confirmation of its joint venture partner.
According to a bilateral agreement signed in January 2018, a joint venture company comprising Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia should have been constituted by Jun 30 last year.
The joint venture company should also have been appointed as the RTS Link operator (OpCo) through a Concession Agreement with Singapore's Land Transport Authority and the government of Malaysia by Sep 30, 2018.
Both milestones were missed.
Under the bilateral agreement, if the joint venture company has not been incorporated or appointed as the RTS link operator, then both countries are obliged to jointly call a fair, international and transparent open tender to appoint an operator - unless both governments mutually agree to postpone these deadlines.
Last month, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament that there could be further delays to construction, after Malaysia asked for another deadline extension until Mar 31, to confirm its joint venture partner for the project.
He said, however, that Singapore still believes that the RTS Link is a “mutually beneficial project”.
“I would like to reassure that we remain fully committed to implementing the project as per the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
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There had been uncertainty over the RTS link project in the wake of the Malaysian general election last May, as the new government reviewed agreements signed by the previous administration.