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Singapore, Malaysia to defer Johor Baru-Woodlands RTS Link till Sept 30

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Singapore and Malaysia have signed an agreement to defer construction of a cross-border MRT link up till Sept 30 this year.

[SINGAPORE] Singapore and Malaysia have signed an agreement to defer construction of a cross-border MRT link up till Sept 30 this year.

As part of the deal, Malaysia will also reimburse Singapore more than S$600,000 - for abortive costs incurred as a result of the six-month suspension of the planned Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link.

Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and his counterpart Anthony Loke inked the agreement to formalise the suspension on Tuesday (May 21) at the PSA Building, where Singapore's Transport Ministry is located.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Mr Khaw said Singapore hopes for the RTS project to resume after the suspension, either in the current form as prescribed in last year's bilateral agreement, or incorporating any changes to the project scope.

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"If not, the RTS Link Project will be deemed to have been terminated by Malaysia, and Malaysia will reimburse Singapore for the costs we have incurred in fulfilling our RTS Link obligations till now," said Mr Khaw.

Malaysia will have to pay more than S$66 million should it choose to terminate the project.

Mr Khaw said the decision to suspend the RTS Link Project will affect the Land Transport Authority's contractors and bidders involved in the development, as well as SMRT, which is Singapore's Joint Venture partner for the RTS Link operator.

In a joint statement following the signing, the countries said that the transport ministers "recognised the urgent need to alleviate traffic congestion at the Johor Bahru- Singapore Causeway which facilitates about 300,000 crossings daily".

Singapore and Malaysia said they will also continue to discuss other "affordable and sustainable solutions to address traffic congestion at the border".

"We will also explore further initiatives, including the use of new technology for enhanced security and checkpoint efficiency," said the two countries.

Malaysia had earlier requested for a six-month suspension of the project from April 1, saying that it needed to review the costs, including how to bring them down further.

The 4km RTS link - which would connect Woodlands North station on Singapore's Thomson-East Coast MRT Line to Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru - was targeted to begin operations by Dec 31, 2024.

However, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said in March that the opening deadline would not be met.