SINGAPORE: Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong has confirmed that a signing ceremony will be held on Jul 30 to finalise the agreements between Singapore and Malaysia to proceed with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project.
In a parliamentary oral reply on Tuesday (Jul 21), Dr Wee said that the prime ministers for both countries will witness the ceremony, which will be held at the Johor-Singapore Causeway.
He said that both countries have completed negotiations for the Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link project and are prepared to sign three agreements during the ceremony - a bilateral agreement, a concession agreement and an agreement to form a joint venture company to operate the rail line.
He was responding to a question by Johor Bahru Member of Parliament Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir regarding the current status of the project.
Dr Wee elaborated that the construction of the RTS Link is expected to begin immediately after the necessary approvals are acquired in January next year. The RTS is expected to begin operations at the end of 2026.
He added that the construction will 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.
READ: Singapore 'optimistic' RTS Link project discussions can be concluded by Jul 31 deadline, says MOT
Earlier this month, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said both sides have been in "intensive discussions" on the RTS project.
"Like Malaysia, we are optimistic that the discussions on the outstanding matters can be concluded by the Jul 31 deadline," said an MOT spokesperson.
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.
It was meant to be completed in 2024, but work on the project has been suspended.
The suspension has been extended three times at Malaysia's request, with the latest extension until Jul 31 due to Singapore's COVID-19 "circuit breaker" measures and Malaysia's movement control order.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Tuesday said that the final extension has allowed both sides to review the changes Malaysia has proposed for the project.
"COVID-19 has however affected the pace of discussions, but it has not dampened the enthusiasm for the project," he wrote in a Facebook post.
"Six months of intensive discussions, meeting almost daily, often late into the night, via teleconference in recent months, have come to a close."
Mr Khaw said that discussions are under way regarding the venue of the event to mark the re-start of the project, adding that the location had to be unique "to mark a historic event".
READ: Singapore, Malaysia targeting to start cross-border travel from Aug 10 for some residents, business visitors
RTS PROJECT TO COST RM3.7 BILLION: MALAYSIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER
Speaking to reporters later, Dr Wee said the total costs for the RTS project is estimated to be RM3.7 billion (S$1.206 billion) after factoring in the relocation of the depot from Mandai in Singapore to Johor Bahru.
The project was previously estimated to cost RM3.16 billion. The additional costs of about RM500 million to construct the depot in Johor Bahru will be borne by Malaysia, the minister said.
“For maintenance purpose, we will be building a track from Bukit Chagar to Wadi Hana. There will also be acquisition of private lands for this purpose. Besides that, the depot will have security features as per requirements of both countries,” he said.