Relook at JB-Singapore rail project after Johor sultan’s reservations

rahman-rtsKUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya is to look at other design options for the proposed rail link between Malaysia and Singapore after the Johor sultan raised serious reservations over the project.

The Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail track includes an elevated bridge.

It will link Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru with Woodlands in Singapore.

Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Rahman Dahlan said he had an audience with Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar last week to explain the project.

“Obviously, some of the perceptions he had were based on third-party information.

“We gave him the true story. We took heed of some of his ideas and, hence, (we are) trying to improve the alignment.

“But at the end of the day, his majesty agreed that the project is valuable to both countries and it has to be done sooner or later.

“He gave us an alternative alignment which we agreed to look into,” Rahman told reporters today.

He spoke to reporters after signing a memorandum of understanding between Prasarana Malaysia Berhad and SMRT Corporation Ltd.

Among those present were representatives of SMRT and the new Prasarana group chairman, former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar.

In an exclusive interview with The New Straits Times Press last month, Sultan Ibrahim had said that while he welcomed the project, he disagreed with the overall curve-shaped design of the track as well as the plan to build the bridge which will be as high as 30m above water in the middle section.

The bridge, the sultan had said, would disrupt the city skyline along the Johor Straits.

Rahman said he had informed the Johor ruler that he would brief him directly from time to time on the project.

Asked on the designs for the bridge, Rahman explained that there were some alternative designs such as a high bridge, low bridge, diagonal bridge or one parallel to the Causeway.

He said the designs would be presented to the Singapore officials for their views as well.

How much will 4km rail link cost?

Rahman said the cost had not been finalised and it would depend on the final design and alignment.

He said on the Johor side, Putrajaya was considering building a station at Bukit Chagar, involving different routes.

Rahman said more details would be given once the bilateral agreement is signed in December.

Asked on who would be leading the project in a joint venture between both the countries, he said: “We don’t believe it is a 50-50 joint venture.

“Logically speaking, if it is on a 50-50 basis, we may be deadlocked on certain decisions.

“Both sides agree and acknowledge that one country will have a slight majority so that in terms of moving forward it will be easier to make decisions.”

He added in terms of structure, Malaysia and Singapore might face other problems in the decision-making process.

“But we do not expect any big issues as both Prasarana and SMRT are both experts, not only the company but also the chairman and CEO.

“At the ministerial level, if there are some issues not settled, then our prime ministers will sit down to resolve the problems.”

He said the construction of the 4km rail link was expected to start in 2019 after an open tender by Putrajaya for construction work of the Malaysian portion.

Asked about opposition MP Rafizi Ramli’s query on how Prasarana was planning to pay for the project as it had allegedly chalked up debts of RM18 billion in 2015 and an expected higher amount in 2016, Prasarana’s president and group CEO Azmi Abdul Aziz said the government would issue a guarantee to enable it to go to the market to raise funds.