KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore and Malaysia are working towards a new "supplemental agreement" to suspend the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) project.
Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan confirmed this at a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke on Monday (Apr 8) at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The attorneys-generals and other officials of both countries are involved in the process, Mr Khaw said.
"We will approach this issue as we did for the suspension of the High-Speed Rail project, with goodwill and reasonable accommodation," he added.
The minister also highlighted that the RTS project is “an especially important priority area” given the heavy traffic congestion at the Causeway.
“The RTS Link, when completed, will make a significant difference to commuters’ experience, being able to transport up to 10,000 passengers per direction per hour,” said Mr Khaw.
He also noted that Malaysia had requested a 6-month suspension of the project to enable it to review the key parameters.
MALAYSIA TO INCUR COST FROM SUSPENSION: LOKE
Speaking at the press conference, Mr Loke said that Malaysia would incur some of the cost from the suspension, but added that the exact amount was still unknown.
"Yes, there is some cost involved but I cannot tell you what is the exact cost right now because that is to be determined by the review and the AG chambers will draft the supplementary agreement," said Mr Loke. "More details will be announced once we finalise that."
The Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link, which will connect Bukit Chagar to Woodlands, is expected to ferry up to 10,000 passengers an hour each way.
The project was supposed to be completed by 2024, but is now behind schedule, with Malaysia repeatedly delaying confirmation of its joint venture partner.
Mr Loke also highlighted that while the project is suspended, both countries are working together to lower the ticket fare to encourage commuters to use the RTS once it is completed.
Mr Loke also acknowledged that both governments want to come up with ways to reduce the congestion at the Causeway in the short term.
To this end, he said that the Malaysia government has placed a request with the Singapore Government to increase the frequency of the Tanah Melayu Berhad's (KTMB) Tebrau Shuttle, which ferries passengers between Johor Bahru and Woodlands.
"If that can increased maybe it'll help reduce the congestion a bit," he added.
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.
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.