ISKANDAR: Malaysia and Singapore will sign a bilateral agreement on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) in December this year, paving the way for the rail passenger link between the republic and Johor Baru.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abd Rahman Dahlan said the matter was agreed during the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) meeting here yesterday.
“We welcome the good progress of commercial, technical and regulatory discussions and look forward to the signing of the bilateral agreement by December 2017.
“Among the issues discussed at the meeting were Malaysia’s request to become the dominant shareholder in the operator of the RTS with a 51 per cent stake rather than both countries having a 50 per cent stake each.
“This is a matter of practicality because the operator would operate more effectively with one party having the majority stake.
“We also made the request considering that Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) would be halting its KTM Tebrau shuttle service once RTS is operational,” Rahman told reporters.
He said Singapore, in principal, has agreed to the request but they wanted to discuss it with their Mass Rapid Transport rail system operator SMRT Corp Ltd first.
Rahman said the RTS was expected to commence passenger service by December 31, 2024.
The RTS will help improve connectivity between the two countries as it will connect Johor Baru to the Thomson line of the republic’s Mass Rapid Transport system.
The rail line will provide an alternative mode of transport that will cater to the 80,000 to 100,000 people who use the Causeway daily.
Also present during the JMCIM was Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
The Singapore government was represented by its Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, along with senior government officials from both countries.
Rahman said both governments agreed to a split of 61:39 on the concession fee for the RTS that will be paid to the two countries with Singapore receiving the majority of the fee.
“Singapore is receiving the majority of the fee because the cost of infrastructure development in the republic would be higher as it involves building underground stations,” said Rahman.
He said after the recovery of the cost for the infrastructure development, Malaysia have asked for the concession fee to be split equally among the two countries but Singapore wants the ratio to be maintained.
“Our argument is that once the costs have been recovered, the fee would be pure earnings so it is only fair that it is split equally. We have a good argument on this matter,” said Rahman.
On another matter, Rahman said Malaysia welcomed Singapore’s plans to upgrade the customs, immigration and quarantine facilities at the Woodlands Checkpoint which would increase overall clearance capacity and ease congestion.
“We hope they would undertake this project soon as this would enable KTM to increase the frequency of its Tebrau shuttle service from the current 26 daily trips to 36 daily trips.
“Previously, when we requested to increase the frequency, they would decline because of the congestion at the Woodlands Checkpoint,” said Rahman.