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Johor Baru-Singapore RTS link behind schedule, likely delayed beyond 2024: Khaw

SINGAPORE — The Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project is “behind schedule” as Malaysia has missed several deadlines, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Monday (Jan 14). As such, the completion date for the rail link will likely be delayed beyond the original target of Dec 31, 2024.

Malaysia had indicated that it was considering replacing its joint-venture partner for the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System, but delayed confirming its partner over the past few months, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

Malaysia had indicated that it was considering replacing its joint-venture partner for the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System, but delayed confirming its partner over the past few months, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said.

SINGAPORE — The Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project is “behind schedule” as Malaysia has missed several deadlines, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Monday (Jan 14). As such, the completion date for the rail link will likely be delayed beyond the original target of Dec 31, 2024.

The 4km RTS line, between Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and Woodlands North in Singapore, was touted as an important link that would ease commutes and boost the cross-border economy between Johor and Singapore.

In a written response to a parliamentary question from Mr Ang Wei Neng, Member of Parliament for Jurong Group Representation Constituency, who asked about the progress of the RTS project, Mr Khaw said that it is “not progressing well” as “milestones have been missed”.

Mr Khaw, who is also Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, explained that in a bilateral agreement signed by Singapore and Malaysia in January 2018, the joint-venture company comprising Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad should have been constituted by June 30 last year.

The company should then have been appointed as the RTS Link operator (OpCo) through a concession agreement with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Malaysia's government by Sept 30 last year.

However, these two milestones in June and September have been missed.

While Mr Khaw said that Singapore will adopt a “constructive approach” to move the project forward, he said that missing the agreed deadlines in the bilateral agreement to appoint the OpCo and thereafter failing to engage with Singapore to take steps to jointly call an open tender to appoint the OpCo have “serious implications”.

Singapore has been “reasonable and flexible, because we understand Malaysia’s circumstances following the May 2018 Malaysian general elections”, he said.

MISSED MILESTONES

Detailing recent developments, Mr Khaw said that Malaysia had indicated that it was considering replacing its joint-venture partner, but delayed confirming this over the past few months — first until September 2018, then until December 2018 and most recently on Dec 28, it requested to be given until Feb 28 to confirm its joint-venture partner.

As a result of these delays, the joint-venture company has not even been incorporated to date, “let alone signed the concession agreement”, Mr Khaw said.

Malaysia has also “unilaterally suspended bilateral discussions” to appoint the OpCo since August last year, pending confirmation of its joint-venture partner.

Mr Khaw said that under the bilateral agreement, if the joint-venture company has either not been incorporated, or not been appointed as the OpCo by the original deadlines, then both countries are obliged to jointly call a fair, international and transparent open tender to appoint the OpCo.

This is unless both Governments mutually agree to postpone these deadlines.

Mr Khaw said that Malaysia has yet to reply after Singapore prepared and sent draft tender documents to its neighbour in November 2018.

“There is urgency to this as, based on Singapore’s calculations, the open tender needs to be called by 31 March 2019 so that, as agreed under the bilateral agreement, the appointed OpCo can procure the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) core systems for the RTS link before these procurement options expire,” Mr Khaw said.

He stated that Singapore has been “diligent” in implementing the bilateral agreement, revealing that the LTA has assembled close to 70 staff members, including civil and systems engineers, for the project.

Singapore has also called civil tenders to construct the RTS link infrastructure, including the Woodlands North station and its portion of the RTS' crossing bridge, he said.

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