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Written Reply by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan to Parliamentary Question on Progress of Rapid Transit System Project Linking Johor Bahru to Woodlands

14 Jan 2019 In Parliament

Mr Ang Wei Neng asked the Minister for Transport

a.     what is the progress of the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project linking Johor Bahru to Woodlands; and

b.     what is the estimated project timeline of the RTS should both Governments proceed with the RTS.

Reply by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan:

1.     The Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) Project is behind schedule and not progressing well. The RTS Link Bilateral Agreement (BA), signed by Singapore and Malaysia in January 2018, sets out certain milestones to track the progress of the Project. Based on the BA, the Joint Venture Company (JVC) comprising Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad should have been constituted by 30 June 2018, and the JVC should have been appointed as the RTS Link operator (OpCo) through a Concession Agreement (CA) with our Land Transport Authority and the Government of Malaysia by 30 September 2018.

2.     However, these milestones have been missed. Over the past few months, Malaysia has indicated that they are considering replacing their JV partner, but has delayed confirming their JV partner – first until September 2018, then until December 2018 and most recently on 28 December 2018, Malaysia requested to be given until 28 February 2019 to confirm their JV partner. As a result of these delays, the JVC has not even been incorporated to-date, let alone signed the CA. Meanwhile, Malaysia has also unilaterally suspended bilateral discussions to appoint the OpCo since August 2018, pending its confirmation of the Malaysian JV partner.

3.     Under the BA, if by the original deadlines the JVC has either not been incorporated, or not been appointed as the OpCo, then both countries are obliged to jointly call a fair, international and transparent open tender to appoint the OpCo, unless both Governments mutually agree to postpone these deadlines. In line with the intent of the BA, Singapore prepared and sent draft tender documents to Malaysia in November 2018 for their comments. There is urgency to this as, based on Singapore’s calculations, the open tender needs to be called by 31 March 2019 so that, as agreed under the BA, the appointed OpCo can procure the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) core systems for the RTS Link before these procurement options expire. However, to-date, we have not received Malaysia’s response to the draft tender documents. There is therefore a real risk that Singapore and Malaysia will not be ready to call a joint open tender by 31 March 2019, which may in turn result in the appointed OpCo not being able to procure the TEL core systems before the TEL procurement options expire.

4.     Singapore has been diligent in implementing the BA. LTA has assembled close to 70 staff, including civil and systems engineers to implement the RTS Link. We have called civil tenders to construct the RTS Link infrastructure, including Singapore’s RTS Link Woodlands North station, and our portion of the RTS Link crossing bridge.

5.     Singapore remains fully committed to implementing the RTS Link Project and fulfilling our obligations under the RTS Link BA. We have also been reasonable and flexible, because we understand Malaysia’s circumstances following the May 2018 Malaysian General Elections. However, missing the agreed deadlines in the BA to appoint the OpCo and thereafter failing to engage with Singapore to take steps to jointly call an open tender to appoint the OpCo has serious implications. The BA is an international treaty that is binding on the countries that signed it, regardless of any changes in the Government. The BA makes clear each country’s responsibility towards the Project, and the consequences of not meeting these responsibilities.

6.     We will continue to take a constructive approach to move the project forward. As Malaysia knows, the RTS Link was envisioned to be a joint effort to ease congestion at our land checkpoints and boost transport collaboration. Unfortunately, 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.