The signing ceremony to finalise the agreement between Singapore and Malaysia to proceed with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project will happen on 30 July at the Johor-Singapore Causeway, said Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong.
Dr Wee said this on Tuesday (21 July) in a parliamentary oral reply, adding that both the countries’ prime ministers will be taking part in the signing ceremony.
The RTS Link project looks at connecting Bukit Chagar in Johor Bharu to Woodlands in Singapore, and it will serve 10,000 passengers per hour each way to help relieve traffic congestion on the Causeway.
The project was supposed to be completed in 2024, but the construction was been suspended temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, Malaysia had requested for the suspension to be extended three times, with the latest until 31 July due to Singapore’s COVID-19 circuit breaker measures and Malaysia’s movement control order.
In the parliamentary reply, Dr Wee noted that both countries have concluded their negotiations for the project and are ready to sign three agreements during the ceremony, which are a bilateral agreement, a concession agreement, and an agreement to create a joint venture company to operate the rail line.
Dr Wee gave this update in response to a question asked by Johor Bharu Member of Parliament Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir on the current status of the project.
The Malaysian Transport Minister went on to explain that the construction work is expected to start immediately after all the necessary approvals are gathered in January 2021. The RTS is expected to be open for the public by the end of 2026.
He also stated that the construction will be done in two phases. The first is the development and civil phase which will take place from 2021 to end of 2024. As for the commissioning and testing phase, it will happen from 2025 until the end of 2026.
The estimated ceiling cost for the project is now at RM3.161 billion (S$1.03 billion), Dr Wee said. But, this cost does not include the amount to relocate the depot from Mandai in Singapore to Johor Bharu.
In the beginning of July, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) revealed that both the countries have been in “intensive discussions” about the RTS project.
“Like Malaysia, we are optimistic that the discussion on the outstanding matters can be concluded by the July 31 deadline,” said a spokesperson from MOT.
Former Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also took to his Facebook on Tuesday to highlight that the extension allowed both countries to “review the changes Malaysia has proposed”, adding that the countries have put in a lot of effort to finalise the details of the project.
“COVID-19 has, however, affected the pace of discussions, but it has not dampened the enthusiasm for the Project. Six months of intensive discussions, meeting almost daily, often late into the night, via teleconference in recent months, have come to a close,” he wrote.
He added, “I commend both teams for their dedication and sacrifice, burning many of their weekends and nights. There is now an agreed text on the changes of the Project, for presentation to both Government for approval.”