RTS service likely to start after 2024, Singapore warns

PETALING JAYA: Singapore today cast doubts that a rail service linking the republic to Johor Bahru will commence in 2024, as initially projected, and has blamed Malaysia for the delay.

In a written reply to Parliament, Singapore’s transport ministry said the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) Project was falling “behind schedule and not progressing well”.

The cross-border service will connect Johor’s Bukit Chagar and Singapore’s Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line.

The RTS trains will be able to carry up to 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction, translating into an additional capacity of 60,000 users crossing the Causeway during peak hours.

Singapore’s transport minister Khaw Boon Wan said based on the bilateral agreement, the joint venture company (JVC) comprising Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad should have been constituted by June 30, 2018.

An RTS Link operator, he said, should have been appointed by the two countries by Sept 30 last year.

However, he said these “milestones” had been missed, with Malaysia failing to confirm its joint venture (JV) partner thrice last year, and had since requested to be given until Feb 28 to name its JV partner.

“As a result of these delays, the JVC has not even been incorporated to-date, let alone signed the concession agreement.

“Meanwhile, Malaysia has also unilaterally suspended bilateral discussions to appoint the RTS operator since August 2018, pending its confirmation of the Malaysian JV partner.”

Khaw also noted that to date, Singapore had not received Malaysia’s response to the draft tender documents, as stipulated in the bilateral agreement, if the “JVC has either not been incorporated, or not been appointed as the RTS Link operator”.

He said based on Singapore’s calculations, an open tender needed to be called by March 31 so the appointed operator could procure the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) core systems for the RTS Link before these procurement options expired.

There was, therefore, Khaw said, a real risk that Singapore and Malaysia would not be ready to call a joint open tender by March 31.

He cautioned that this, in turn, may result in the appointed operator not being able to procure the TEL core systems before the options expired.

“As a result of these delays, the commencement date of RTS Link services will likely be delayed beyond the original target of 31 December 2024,” Khaw said.