PUTRAJAYA: The third suspension period for the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project is not to review whether it should proceed, but to ensure that the relevant agreements can be amended and signed, said Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Tuesday (Nov 5).
Speaking at a press conference at the Parliament building, Mr Loke stated that suspension of the project until Apr 30, 2020 is an “implementation phase” for both Singapore and Malaysia to agree on amendments to the scope and structure.
“The suspension is to ensure that all the agreements are signed and we have to work out the amendments. It’s not that we are asking for a suspension for us to decide what to do, we have already decided what to do,” he said.
On Oct 31, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that Malaysia will proceed with the construction of the RTS Link project, with a 36 per cent cost cut.
In a written response to a Parliamentary Question on Monday, Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said Malaysia had requested a further extension of the suspension period by six months until Apr 30 next year. Singapore had acceded to Malaysia’s request "in the spirit of bilateral cooperation", he added.
While the decision has been made to go ahead with the project, he noted that Putrajaya was not yet ready to share the details of their proposed changes with Singapore.
"Singapore welcomes Malaysia’s decision to proceed with the RTS Link Project. This is a mutually beneficial project for both countries. The RTS Link will significantly ease Causeway congestion, facilitate business and tourism, and bring our people closer together," said Mr Khaw.
"While we are not obliged to accept Malaysia’s proposed changes, we will continue to keep an open mind and assess them carefully and objectively."
Mr Loke said on Tuesday that with the Cabinet's approval for the RTS to proceed, Malaysia will appoint a consultant to conduct a joint-engineering study to iron out the amendments to the agreements that need to be signed.
He highlighted that Singapore and Malaysia would need to complete the signing of three agreements before the Apr 30 deadline – an amended RTS Link bilateral agreement, a joint venture agreement between Singapore's SMRT and Malaysia's national rail operator Prasarana Malaysia, as well as a concession agreement to appoint the joint venture as the RTS Link operator.
“We need to make amendments to the three agreements and sign them, and the deadline that has been agreed by both parties is six months, because we need some time,” Mr Loke added.
“We need to make amendments to these agreements and it also depends on engineering study that needs to be done,” he added.
KUALA LUMPUR'S LRT SYSTEM CAN BE BASIS FOR RTS, SAYS LOKE
On Monday, Mr Loke said in Parliament that Malaysia has proposed to Singapore that the RTS Link project could follow the format of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Kuala Lumpur.
He was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times that the LRT system would be sufficient as the RTS Link would comprise of only two stations – Bukit Chagar on Johor’s side and Woodlands North in Singapore. The maintenance could be done in Malaysia.
Previously, it was said that the RTS would be similar to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system which operates in Singapore.
Mr Loke also reportedly said that he had proposed this to the Singapore side and both are “still discussing the matter”. According to the New Straits Times report, Mr Loke said Malaysia has “so far received a positive response”.
Mr Loke added that the RTS will carry an estimated 10,000 hourly passengers per direction, in line with the requirements set by Singapore for the project to proceed.
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 is now behind schedule.
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 through a concession agreement with Singapore's Land Transport Authority and the government of Malaysia by Sep 30, 2018.