Singapore-Malaysia Rapid Transit System Link decision postponed to July 31st
Singapore’s Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, Khaw Boon Wan has announced that, following a request from the Malaysian government, a decision on the development of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) will be delayed until 31st July 2020.
Not to be confused with the Singapore-Malaysia Highspeed Rail (HSR) project, the RTS was envisaged to provide a metro rail connection between Singapore and the neighbouring Malaysian city of Johor Bahru, but is no stranger to delays. First discussed in the early 1990s, an official tender was called in November 2011 to conduct a design and engineering study, of which a consortium of Aecom Perunding, Aecom Singapore, and SA Architects were successful in securing the tender. In July 2017, officials from Singapore and Malaysia announced that the link would start operating by 31 December 2024 and Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia were appointed as operators and were negotiating terms for a first concession period of 30 years.
In January 2018, Singapore and Malaysia signed a bilateral agreement on the project, signed by Khaw Boon Wan and Malaysia’s Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan. It was witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak with construction of the 4 km link to begin in 2019. However, just a few months later, Najib Razak was unsuccessful in his run for re-election as Mahathir Mohamad took the helm as Malaysian Prime Minister. Once in office, Mahathir instructed the police authorities to investigate accusations of corruption against Najib Razak and had all public infrastructure projects re-evaluated.
On 21st May 2019, the two countries agreed to suspend the project for 6 months until 30th September and then again until the end of October, at which point Mahathir Mohamad then announced that the project would go ahead with a 36% cost cut, using Light Rail Transit (LRT) technologies rather than a full Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system. However, following another change of Prime Minister in Malaysia (with Muhyiddin Yassin taking over from Mahathir Mohamad) and with lockdown measures in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project is again on hold.
Singapore’s Mr Khaw states that this is the final time that a decision on the project’s outcome will be delayed and we will finally be able to some real progress on the development of the project which, when complete, could ferry 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction and help ease traffic congestion on the Singapore-Johor Bahru causeway.
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