The works at the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link “are on track to achieve timely completion”, said Minister for Transport, S Iswaran, at a press conference at the project site in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
“Works on the Singapore side of the RTS link are progressing well. And we have completed about 50 per cent of civil construction works for both the overall railway infrastructure and marine viaduct,” said Iswaran.
Also present at the doorstop was Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke.
It was the first time the transport ministers of both countries have conducted a joint visit to the site, according to him.
Iswaran: RTS an important bilateral project
Iswaran thanked Loke and his team for hosting the site visit, and noted that both sides had a “wide ranging discussion and reaffirmed [their] commitment to strengthening bilateral ties”.
He said they also discussed ways to further enhance both sides’ transport connectivity through air, sea and land initiatives.
Speaking about the RTS, Iswaran described it as “an important bilateral project”.
“It will help to alleviate the causeway congestion and enhance connectivity between Singapore and Johor Bahru. More importantly, it will also further strengthen the ties between our two countries and our peoples.”
He thanked the teams who have been working on the rail project and looked forward to working closely with Malaysia on it.
Loke: Malaysia hopes to improve cross border travel
Malaysia's transport minister acknowledged that many Singaporeans and Malaysians cross the border on a daily basis, be it for work or leisure purposes.
“The Malaysian government really wants to significantly improve the cross border travel experience for both daily commuters and occasional travelers,” said Loke.
Expressing his belief in road safety and minimising risks, he opined that “RTS link will change lives for the better for many families of both countries.”
He said that they were committed to keeping to the targeted timeline and noted that the progress of the railway infrastructure on the Malaysian side has reached 36 per cent.
Despite delays due to changes in government and the Covid-19 pandemic, Loke said that they remained “confident to complete the project in full by 31st of December 2026".
“RTS will be an icon representing not only the shared history and close ties that bind both countries together, but also a new era of cooperation,” he said in his concluding remarks.
What it has to offer
Once completed, the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link will be able to carry 10,000 commuters per hour in each direction.
The journey between the RTS Link Woodlands North station in Singapore and the Bukit Chagar station in Johor Bahru will only take five minutes.
Mohd Zarif Hashim, CEO of Malaysia's Mass Rapid Transit Corp (MRT Corp), said that the targeted overall travel time would be 15 minutes -- "five minutes to clear immigration, five minutes for waiting time and travel, and another five minutes to move out of the Woodlands North."
The RTS will significantly ease congestion on the causeway, as it is expected to absorb at least 35 per cent of causeway traffic.
The idea to create a Rapid Transit System between Singapore and Johor Bahru was first suggested in 1991 but was only revisited two decades later. The plan was announced to the public in 2012 and was slated to operate in 2018.
Its operation was later delayed and suspended due to internal changes following the 2018 Malaysian General Election.
The newly elected Pakatan Harapan government was looking to reduce RM1 trillion (S$298 million) national debt accumulated under Najib Razak's administration. RTS was one of the ventures they re-examined to reduce costs.
The country decided to proceed with the project in 2019 with reduced costs by 36 per cent. The RTS project was estimated to cost RM10 billion (S$3.27 billion in 2021).
The Singaporean and Malaysian governments agreed to split the cost by 61:39, with Singapore forking out RM6.28 billion, or S$2.05 billion (2021 conversion rate) with Malaysia paying RM3.716 billion (S$1.22 billion in 2021).
The RTS Link was one of the issues discussed during PM Anwar's first official visit to Singapore as prime minister, together with PM Lee Hsien Loong.
In March 2023, the construction of the Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link was said to be proceeding smoothly and looked set to be completed by end-2026.
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Top image via Tan Min-Wei