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Malaysia to proceed with JB-S'pore RTS rail project, says Mahathir

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (centre) speaks during a press conference at the Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex in Johor Baru on Oct 31, 2019.

[JOHOR BARU] Malaysia has decided to proceed with a cross-border MRT link project with Singapore, with proposals to amend the project and reduce costs by 36 per cent.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced this on Thursday (Oct 31), during a press conference held at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex.

With the proposed changes, the total cost of the 4km rail project is estimated to be RM3.16 billion ($1.03 billion), instead of the original of RM4.93 billion, said the Malaysian government in a statement.

Officials from both countries are currently refining Malaysia's proposals to amend parts of the bilateral agreement for the project, which was signed last year.

A key feature of the revised project structure will be the involvement of the developer/owner of the Bukit Chagar land - where the Rapid Transit System (RTS) will connect to in Johor Baru - so the land cost will be waived.

In March this year, Malaysia requested for a six-month extension to respond to Singapore on issues relating to the RTS project.

Both countries later inked an agreement in May to formalise the suspension until Sept 30, with Malaysia reimbursing Singapore more than $600,000 for abortive costs incurred by the deferment.

Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said at the signing ceremony that his government was looking at ways to reduce the cost of the RTS, including roping in the private sector.

Malaysia later requested for another month of extension till Oct 31, to which Singapore agreed to.

Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said that the additional costs incurred during this period would be waived. But Singapore also reserves the right to claim additional costs incurred beyond Sept 30, should Malaysia request any further extension to the suspension period, said the MOT.

On Thursday, Malaysia's Transport Ministry announced that its national rail operator Prasarana Malaysia will remain as the joint venture partner for the RTS.

Prasarana will consult with SMRT to finalise the terms of the joint venture, it said. The Malaysian government had previously delayed confirming its joint venture partner.

Both governments signed a bilateral agreement last January to build the MRT link, which will connect Woodlands North station on the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line to Bukit Chagar.

The cross-border MRT link was initially targeted to begin operations by Dec 31, 2024.

The RTS project, which is based on Singapore's MRT system, would have the capacity to transport 10,000 commuters an hour in one direction during peak periods.

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