SINGAPORE: The suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project has been extended by another three months until the end of July, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said on Saturday (May 2).
Singapore COVID-19 "circuit breaker" measures and Malaysia's movement control order have "affected the pace of our discussions", said the ministry.
“Like Malaysia, we are optimistic that the discussions on the outstanding matters can be concluded within three months, using tele-conferencing and other means of communication,” it added.
Malaysia’s Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong had said earlier on Saturday that bilateral discussions with Singapore on the project have been impacted by measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus on both sides of the Causeway.
He added that he has discussed the status of the bilateral agreement "closely and constantly" with his Singapore counterpart Khaw Boon Wan.
This is the third extension of the suspension at Malaysia's request.
The RTS was meant to be completed in 2024. It 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.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Khaw said Singapore has agreed to further extend the suspension for "a third and final time", to Jul 31.
"As this is a final extension, I have asked our teams (MOT, LTA and SMRT) to work immediately with their Malaysian counterparts to wrap up the discussions speedily," he added.
"Fortunately, technology is available for us to discuss and negotiate, though nothing quite replaces face-to-face dialogue. But it can’t be helped, this is an unusual time."
Singapore’s transport ministry said the task now is to conclude all the three key agreements in time so that they can be signed by Jul 31.
The three agreements refer to the RTS Link bilateral agreement between both governments, the Joint Venture Agreement between SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia to constitute a joint venture operating company, as well as a concession agreement for both governments to appoint this operating company as the RTS Link operator.
"I look forward to co-witnessing with Minister Wee Ka Siong the signing of the 3 agreements which will enable the RTS Link Project to re-start," said Mr Khaw.
The previous extension granted to Malaysia was in November last year, after then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said the country will proceed with the construction of the RTS Link, but with a 36 per cent cost cut.