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“Possible” to postpone JB-Singapore RTS deadlines within framework of bilateral agreement, mutual consent: MOT

Further delays are to be expected regarding the JB-Singapore RTS Link project as Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) announced on Thu (4 Apr) that a review of the bilateral agreement (BA) regarding the project is “possible”.

MOT noted that any review or deadline extension will be “subject to mutual consent of both countries”.

“For example, Malaysia can request to suspend the RTS Link Project, as was done for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project.

“Alternatively, Malaysia can terminate the existing RTS Link BA and request to negotiate a fresh BA with Singapore,” added MOT.

The Ministry’s statement is a response to Malaysia’s request at the end of last month to extend the deadline of the project by six months in order to leave room for a review of the RTS Link project’s “scope, structure and costs previously agreed between the two countries”.

Acting Minister for Transport Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament last month on 7 Mar that the RTS link project between Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and Woodlands North station on Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast MRT Line is “no longer on track” contrary to its original scheduled operations start date on 31 Dec 2024.

His statement was made in response to Jurong GRC Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng’s question regarding the status of the project during a parliamentary debate on MOT’s budget.

TODAY reported that the deadline has already been shifted four times previously, namely “from last June to September, then to two dates in December before settling on Feb 28”.

The formation of a joint venture company by Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s public transportation company Prasarana Malaysia Berhad was slated to take place in June last year, TODAY observed.

However, Malaysia had plans to replace Prasarana, which leaves the concession agreement between Singapore’s Land Transport Authority and its Malaysian counterpart, which was meant to be signed by 30 Sep last year, hanging.

“In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, Singapore has been willing to engage Malaysia on its proposals for Malaysia’s joint venture (JV) partner for the RTS Link OpCo,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“Unfortunately, Malaysia has repeatedly delayed confirming its JV partner,” he added.

In January, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a written response to a parliamentary question from Mr Ang that the project was “not progressing well” as “milestones have been missed”.

The Edge Markets reported earlier this month that the Malaysian government was seeking, for the fifth time, an additional six-month extension in order to have more time to decide on its next course of action.

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke told reporters: “We are asking for more time from the Singapore government, for us to study the other options.

“Of course, we are looking at the costs of the project, how we can reduce the costs further and how do we utilise the project,” he added.

When asked if the Singapore government has given consent to the extension, Loke said: “There will be some agreement with them [the Singapore government]. We will reveal [the details] later.”

The Star Online quoted Loke as saying on 12 Mar that RM4bil (S$1.3bil) out of the RM10bil (S$3.3bil) cost for the project will be borne by Malaysia.