Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad delivering his keynote address at the inaugural Forsea Conference and Democracy Fest on Saturday (16 Feb 2019). Source: Terry Xu/TOC

Rail link between JB and Singapore to proceed, says Malaysia’s PM Mahathir

The 4km rail line linking Johor Bahru to Singapore will proceed, said Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (17 October).

The 94-year old premier said to reporters on Thursday at the launch of the National Transport Plan 2019-2030, “We will proceed with the RTS but we will take some time”.

Mr Mahathir added that the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail project will be postponed for two years due to high costs, explaining that the country cannot afford it at the moment due to debt from the previous government.

His comments followed the remarks by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke who said that the Malaysian Cabinet will decide on the details of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link project within two weeks. .

When questioned if this means that the Malaysian government has resolved the land dispute involving a plot of land owned by the Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar in Bukit Chagar, Johor, Mr Mahathir simply said, “That is something which will be announced later”.

The project, if completed, will connect the Bukit Chagar Station in Johor Bahru to the upcoming Woodlands North Station in Singapore.

When the country’s 2020 budget was announced last week (11 October), Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said that the government intends to proceed with the RTS link as a “longer-term solution to address the congestion”.

He described reducing traffic congestion at the two land links between Johor and Singapore as a “pressing issue” given that the links are used daily by more than 300,000 Malaysians.

Originally, the previously estimated RM4 billion RTS project was to begin construction this year as the link was projected to be operational by December 2024. However in April this year, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to suspend the project until 30 September as the fresh Pakatan Harapan administration reviewed the project to find ways to lower costs.

Mr Loke had said that the original one-way fare of RM15 (S$4.90) was too expensive for Malaysians who travel to Singapore every day for work.

Malaysia was to reimburse Singapore for abortive costs, at S$600,000 suspension of the project to end of September. Last month, the deadline of the suspension was pushed to 31 October with no additional costs, as agreed by both countries according to Mr Loke.