Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to suspend the construction of a billion dollar train project linking the city-state to the southern Malaysian state of Johor, their transport ministers said on Tuesday. NSTP file pix/ Zain Ahmed
“If by 30 September 2019, Malaysia does not proceed with the RTS (Rapid Transit System) Link project, Malaysia will also bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore,” Khaw Boon Wan and Anthony Loke (pic) said in a joint statement. Pic by NSTP/EIZAIRI SHAMSUDIN

SINGAPORE: Malaysia and Singapore have signed a supplemental agreement (SA) for the suspension of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project until Sept 30.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said Malaysia would reimburse Singapore about RM2 million by July 31 as abortive costs incurred as a result of the six-month suspension.

Loke and his Singapore counterpart Khaw Boon Wan sealed the agreement to formalise the suspension at the Singaporean Transport Ministry.

A bilateral agreement on the RTS Link was signed in January last year during the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

Loke said, under the original agreement, the one-way fare was set at RM15 and would burden some Malaysians who travelled daily to Singapore for work.

The project was initially scheduled for construction this year and expected to be completed by December 2024.

It was aimed at addressing congestion in the daily commute between the two countries.

The RTS project would cover 4km of rail linking Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore, and have the capacity to ferry 10,000 passengers per hour.

Khaw said Malaysia would have to pay more than S$66 million (RM200 million) should it choose to terminate the project.

Both ministers later visited the RTS site in Woodlands North.

Asked how much reduction in cost Malaysia was looking at, Loke declined to state any figure as discussions between the two countries were still ongoing.

“We are looking into getting the private sector to be involved in this project as well.

“So, this is very much a commercial decision.

“The most important thing is if we are able to reduce the infrastructure cost that will benefit passengers and the public by and large as it will lower down the fare,” he said.

Loke also expressed his appreciation of Singapore’s support and understanding on the challenges faced by Malaysia in implementing the RTS project.

He said he had met his counterpart six times as they discussed ways to resolve bilateral issues, including the RTS.

“We recognise the urgent need to alleviate the traffic congestion at the Johor Baru-Singapore Causeway which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily affecting approximately 250,000 Malaysians working in Singapore,” he said.

Loke noted that the SA would allow Malaysia some time to explore other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border.

“These 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,” he said.

In a joint statement, both ministers recognised the urgent need to alleviate traffic congestion at the Causeway.

Both countries will continue to discuss other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border.

“We will also explore further initiatives, including the use of new technology for enhanced security and checkpoint efficiency,” it said.

The ministers also noted the importance for both countries to establish cost-effective, efficient and sustainable transport interconnectivity, as it would foster greater people-to-people ties and generate shared economic and social benefits. -- Agencies