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JB-S'pore RTS link project to be suspended till Sept 30

SINGAPORE — The Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project has been suspended until Sept 30, as Malaysia seeks to study the scope, structure and costs of the project.

JB-S'pore RTS link project to be suspended till Sept 30

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (right) and his Malaysian counterpart Anthony Loke during the RTS Link Supplemental Agreement Signing Ceremony on Tuesday (May 21).

SINGAPORE — The Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project has been suspended until Sept 30, as Malaysia seeks to study the scope, structure and costs of the project.

As a result of the suspension, Malaysia will reimburse Singapore for the abortive costs incurred. These amount to over S$600,000, the transport ministers of both countries said at a media conference in Singapore on Tuesday (May 21) after the signing of a a supplementary agreement to formalise the suspension of the project.

This is similar to the arrangement made when Malaysia requested a suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project.

Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that during the suspension period, Malaysia will consider if it intends to proceed with the RTS link project as initially planned.

"Malaysia can also propose changes to the project scope, and Singapore will give any such changes due consideration," said Mr Khaw.

"We hope that the RTS link project will resume at the end of the suspension period — either in its current form as prescribed in the RTS Bilateral Agreement or incorporating any project scope changes that both sides agree on during the suspension period."

But if the project does not resume, the RTS link project "will be deemed to  have been terminated by Malaysia, and Malaysia will reimburse Singapore” for the costs that the Republic has incurred in fulfilling its RTS Link obligations till now, Mr Khaw added.

Terminating the project could cost Malaysia some S$66 million, he said.

Suspending the project, Mr Khaw said, will affect the Land Transport Authority's contractors and bidders that have been involved, as well as transport operator SMRT, which is Singapore’s joint venture partner for the RTS link operator.

Noting that SMRT has been concerned about the project's future, he said the Singapore Government hopes to work with them again if the project resumes.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke acknowledged an “urgent need” to alleviate traffic congestion at the Causeway. Nevertheless, the supplementary agreement will allow his country to explore “other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border”, he said. 

These include new initiatives such as improvements to the physical infrastructure at the border, review of inter-boundary policies and regulations, as well as enhancing the quality of cross-border services.

In a Facebook post after the press conference, Mr Khaw described the suspension as a “temporary setback”.

“But I remain optimistic that the project could resume in due course. The cross-border congestion is real and only a decisive project like the RTS can make a material difference to the current situation,” he added.

Mr Loke, speaking at the press conference, reiterated Malaysia's commitment to the project. “Let us continue to find new ways that could still meet the objective of providing an affordable, efficient and practical transport connectivity between two countries,” he said.

He added: “Even though we are suspending the RTS link project, but in the next three months or so, we will work very hard to ensure that we can find solutions, find better approaches and both of us really hope that we can proceed with the RTS project.”

The rail project was scheduled for construction this year to remedy the congestion woes of some 300,000 people who commute across the Johor Strait daily.

On March 27, Malaysia had requested for a six-month extension of the RTS link project. It wanted more time to study the project's costs, estimated at RM4 billion (S$1.33 billion), and to reduce it further.

If it does resume, the completion of the project, which is behind schedule as Malaysia has missed several deadlines, will likely be delayed beyond the initial target of Dec 31, 2024.

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