SINGAPORE: Malaysia hopes to find new ways and means to reduce the cost of the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) project, including getting the private sector to fund and operate it.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the government wanted to negotiate for better terms so that the project could be implemented effectively.
“We want the project to be implemented with lower fares. What we see now is that the cost structure is quite high and the RM30 fares to and from Singapore will have an impact on Malaysians working there and commuting daily,” he said.
Under the previous proposal, the fare was RM15 from Johor Baru to Singapore and S$5 or RM15 from Singapore to Johor Baru.
Loke was speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony of a supplementary agreement with his Singaporean counterpart Khaw Boon Wan to formalise the suspension of the RTS project at the Transport Ministry in the republic.
Singapore, he said, had agreed to the postponement of the project until Sept 30.
Loke said the RTS project was negotiated by the previous government while the new government would use the next four months to work hard to find solutions and better approaches to proceed with the project.
“As such, Malaysia will reimburse Singapore about S$600,000 (RM1.8mil) as abortive cost to Singapore for the cost that it has incurred,” he said, adding that Malaysia was paying the abortive cost due to the six-month postponement of the project at its request.
He said under the previous agreement, the government was to fund the project cost via Prasarana.
“We now hope the private sector can take over the construction cost and operate the project,” he said, adding that the six-month postponement was to allow for renegotiation of the terms with the Singapore government and the agency it had appointed, SMRT Corporation.
Loke noted that in the original agreement, there was no provision for a suspension period but due to the close relationship between both countries, the six-month suspension was possible provided that Malaysia reimbursed Singapore the abortive cost.
He also expressed his appreciation to Singapore for its support and understanding in the challenges faced by Malaysia in implementing the RTS project.
“We recognise the urgent need to ease traffic congestion at the Johor Baru-Singapore Causeway which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily, affecting about 250,000 Malaysians working in Singapore,” he said.
Loke pointed out that the supplemental agreement would allow Malaysia some time to explore other affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border.
“These include new initiatives such as improvements to the physical infrastructure at the border, review of inter-boundary policies and regulations and enhancing the quality of cross-border services,” he said.
Asked whether the private companies had been identified, he said a discussion would be held with Singapore.
As to the fare he was looking at, he declined to put a figure but just wanted a reduction.
The RM4bil RTS Link project is set to cover 4km of rail linking Bukit Chagar (Johor Baru) and Woodlands (Singapore), with a capacity to ferry 10,000 passengers per hour.
Meanwhile, Khaw said Malaysia would have to pay more than S$66mil (RM198mil) should it choose to terminate the project completely.
Both ministers later visited the RTS Link site at Woodlands North.
In a joint statement, the ministers recognised the urgent need to alleviate traffic congestion at the Causeway, and said both countries would continue to discuss other affordable and sustainable solutions to the issue.