SINGAPORE: The Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link project is behind schedule and “not progressing well”, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Monday (Jan 14) in a written parliamentary reply.
He was responding to a question from MP Ang Wei Neng on the progress of the project linking Johor Bahru in Malaysia to Woodlands in Singapore, and the estimated project timeline.
According to milestones set in the bilateral agreement signed in January 2018, a joint venture company comprising Singapore’s SMRT and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia should have been constituted by Jun 30, 2018.
READ: Singapore, Malaysia sign bilateral agreement on JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System
The joint venture company should also have been appointed as the RTS Link operator (OpCo) through a Concession Agreement (CA) with Singapore’s Land Transport Authority and the government of Malaysia by Sep 30, 2018.
The two 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,” said Mr Khaw.
“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.”
Mr Khaw explained that under the bilateral agreement, if the joint venture company has not been incorporated or appointed as the RTS link operator, then both countries are obliged to jointly call a fair, international and transparent open tender to appoint an operator, unless both governments mutually agree to postpone these deadlines.
“In line with the intent of the bilateral agreement, Singapore prepared and sent draft tender documents to Malaysia in November 2018 for their comments,” said Mr Khaw.
“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 bilateral agreement, the appointed OpCo can procure the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) core systems for the RTS Link before these procurement options expire.”
Malaysia has not responded to the draft tender documents, Mr Khaw said, adding that Singapore remains fully committed to implementing the RTS link project.
“However, missing the agreed deadlines in the bilateral agreement 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 bilateral agreement is an international treaty that is binding on the countries that signed it, regardless of any changes in the government,” said Mr Khaw.
He added that as a result of these delays, the commencement date of RTS link services will likely be delayed beyond the original target of Dec 31, 2024.