KUALA LUMPUR: THE Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) project remains on track despite the latest postponement agreement, which was inked to seek avenues of cost reduction.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who was in Singapore to sign the Supplemental Agreement which deferred the RM4 billion project until Sept 30, was positive that the RTS project would not be derailed by burgeoning costs.
Loke said the agreement would also allow time to explore affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border, including lower fares for passengers. The proposed RM15 one-way ticket is considered expensive.
“These (solutions) include new initiatives such as improvements to the physical infrastructure at the border, review of inter-boundary policies and regulations, and enhancing the quality of cross-border services.
“This does not mean that we are terminating the project. We just want to re-evaluate it for better execution. After several rounds of discussion, Malaysia and Singapore have reached a mutually acceptable agreement.
“Let us continue to find new ways that could still meet the objective of providing an affordable, efficient and practical transport connectivity between the two countries,” Loke said.
His Singapore counterpart, Khaw Boon Wan, was present to sign the agreement.
The project was scheduled for construction this year and expected to be completed by December 2024. Malaysia would reimburse Singapore about RM2 million by July 31 as abortive costs incurred as a result of the six-month suspension.
“We recognise the urgent need to alleviate the traffic congestion at the Johor Baru-Singapore Causeway, which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily and affecting approximately 250,000 Malaysians working in Singapore.”
Loke spoke of plans to privatise RTS construction and operations, that were intended to be run by Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.
The privatisation approach is expected to be the chief arrangement employed to shave off cost, in lieu with the government’s present austerity drive following the state of its reserves.
“We believe that the project can be done at a more effective cost. And we hope that the construction and operations costs will be borne by private parties.
“This project was previously under the former government and Prasarana was supposed to bear the construction costs.”
RTS is a 4km-long railway line between Bukit Chagar, Johor, and Woodlands, Singapore.
Sources close to the project claim that construction would be in full swing by next year, following the completion of the cost reduction study and its implementation.
Issues pertaining to the ownership of lands in Bukit Chagar earmarked for the project have also been resolved, albeit principally.