SINGAPORE: Singapore's Transport Ministry confirmed on Thursday (Apr 4) that Malaysia has requested for a six-month extension on a deadline to respond to matters related to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) project.
Malaysia requested for the extension on Mar 27, said the Ministry of Transport (MOT) in response to media queries.
MOT's statement comes after Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Monday that it had asked for an extension until September to allow Putrajaya more time to examine several issues, including the cost of implementing the project. The deadline for Malaysia to confirm its venture partner lapsed on Mar 31.
"Malaysia requested a six-month deadline extension for Malaysia to respond to Singapore on matters related to the RTS Link Project, while Malaysia reviews the RTS Link Project’s scope, structure and costs previously agreed between the two countries," said MOT.
It added that it is possible to defer project deadlines and review project parameters, provided it is done within the framework of the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement (BA) and mutually agreed upon by both countries.
"For example, Malaysia can request to suspend the RTS Link Project, as was done for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project," MOT said.
"Alternatively, Malaysia can terminate the existing RTS Link BA and request to negotiate a fresh BA with Singapore," it added.
The Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link, which connects Bukit Chagar to Woodlands, is expected to ferry up to 10,000 passengers per hour each way.
The project was meant to be completed by 2024, but is now behind schedule with Malaysia repeatedly delaying confirmation of its joint venture partner.
According to a 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 last year.
The joint venture company should also have been appointed as the RTS Link operator through a Concession Agreement with Singapore's Land Transport Authority and the government of Malaysia by Sep 30, 2018.
Both milestones were missed.
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.
Last month, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament that there could be further delays to construction, after Malaysia asked for another deadline extension until Mar 31, to confirm its joint venture partner for the project.
He added, however, that Singapore still believes that the RTS Link is a “mutually beneficial project”.