The RTS link to Malaysia might have to go back to the drawing board
Johor's Sultan speaks out.
Hey, remember when Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan announced some progress on the Rapid Transfer Systems (RTS) link?
The 13th Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee Meeting took place on Aug. 1. It was co-chaired by Khaw and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan from Malaysia.
Afterwards, they announced that the cross-border MRT system will begin operations by the end of 2024.
Well, someone else says different. Someone with royal prerogative.
We need a reboot
The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, said in an interview with the New Straits Times on Aug. 8 that both parties had to “go back to the drawing board.”
“It disrupts the city skyline, and we are talking about a permanent fixture here. Go back to the drawing board and review the overall plan.
The parties also have to consult me. Whatever (new plan) is presented to me, it will have to be logical, economical and sustainable for the benefit of not only Johoreans but all Malaysians and Singaporeans.”
Singapore has chosen the Woodlands North station along the future Thomson-East Coast MRT line to be its end of the link. Malaysia has chosen Bukit Chargar to be the main terminal for their end.
The two points will be joined by a high bridge, and that’s what Sultan Ibrahim has an issue with.
Bridge over the water
While he’s supportive of the overall project, he has reservations about the curve-shaped design of the bridge and its middle section, which will reach as high as 30m above the water.
“Why do we have to have a curved design when we can have a more practical design that is straighter and closer to the Causeway?
Why do they need an elevated bridge with up to 30m air draft (clearance height from water to a vessel’s height) unless there are plans to remove the Causeway?”
The high bridge design was agreed upon by PM Lee and Prime Minister Najib Razak in December 2016.
My way, not the highway
The Sultan also expressed concerns that the Malaysian government invited Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, a government-owned public transport company, to be involved in the project.
Prasarana and Singapore’s SMRT are exploring setting up a joint venture company to operate the RTS link.
“Why must it be Prasarana? Why not the Johor government? Please remember that land is a state matter. My priority is the people of Johor: that they are happy with what is being decided.”
Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that the project is entirely within the state of Johor, so it should be fronted by a Johor company.
He added that the Johor government could enter into a joint-venture with Singapore and he could raise the funds himself if necessary.
This is not the first time the Sultan has publicly commented on matters related to the federal government. In 2015, he voiced concerns over the deteriorating value of the ringgit.
The government(s) respond
In response, Rahman Dahlan said:
“We acknowledge the issues and concerns raised by His Royal Highness … and will seek an immediate audience with His Royal Highness as soon as the palace has confirmed the date.”
Sultan Ibrahim said he would raise his concerns over the RTS Link’s design at a meeting with PM Lee in September.
A spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said on Aug. 9:
“Singapore is committed to the RTS Link project, and we have been discussing its various aspects with the Malaysian government since 2010, through the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia.”
It remains to be seen what impact the Sultan’s remarks will have on the project’s timeline, and if the targeted completion date of 2024 can still be kept.
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Top image courtesy of Wikipedia