Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System Link project resumes

Singapore and Malaysia held a bilateral ceremony today (30 July) to mark the official resumption of the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the event took place at the Causeway (Singapore-Malaysia border crossing).

The RTS Link project has been suspended since 1 April 2019 at Malaysia’s request, to allow some time for the country to review the project. Both sides have discussed and agreed on some key changes to the project, according to the joint statement by Singapore and Malaysia.

First, the RTS Link will be a standalone Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, instead of leveraging Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. The RTS Link’s capacity remains unchanged at up to 10,000 passengers per hour each way.

Also, the RTS Link will no longer use the existing TEL Mandai Depot in Singapore. For this, a new depot will be constructed in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru.

In addition, each government separately appointed an infrastructure company (InfraCo) to fund, build, own, maintain and renew the civil infrastructure and stations in its territory up to the international boundary. Malaysia has changed its InfraCo from Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to Malaysia Rapid Transit System Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd. The Land Transport Authority of Singapore remains as Singapore’s InfraCo.

Lastly, arising from the suspension of the project and the above changes, the targeted passenger service commencement date will be deferred from end 2024 to end 2026.

The joint statement further mentioned, “The RTS Link will continue to feature co-location of customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) facilities, so that passengers undergo CIQ clearance only once at their point of departure. Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that the RTS Link stations will be well integrated with the local transport networks in each country. The fare levels will continue to be set by the operating company (OpCo), and will be determined closer to the date of passenger service commencement.”

The RTS Link is set to be built in two phases, as reported by Channel News Asia (CNA), citing a statement from Malaysia’s Minister of Transport, Wee Ka Siong. “The development and civil phase will take place from 2021 to end of 2024, while the commissioning and testing phase will take place from 2025 until the end of 2026,” said CNA.

Three key agreements to resume the project have also been concluded, added the joint statement. These include: an agreement to amend the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement between the governments of Singapore and Malaysia; a joint venture agreement between Singapore’s SMRT RTS Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMRT Corporation Limited, and Malaysia’s Prasarana RTS Operations Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, to constitute RTS Operations Pte Ltd; and a concession agreement for the government of Malaysia and the Land Transport Authority of Singapore to appoint RTS Operations Pte Ltd as the OpCo for the first 30-year concession period.

“Today’s event marks the culmination of several months of hard work, during which officials on both sides worked closely to find a common way forward on this project, despite the challenges faced during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic,” said the joint statement. “The successful resumption of the RTS Link project underscores the deep and enduring bilateral relationship between both countries, and the collective desire to strengthen our win-win partnership. When completed, the RTS Link will ease Causeway congestion, improve connectivity, foster people-to-people ties and generate shared economic and social benefits.”

The photos are screenshots taken from the video of the ceremony, which was broadcast live on PM Lee’s Facebook page.