MRT to JB Plans Are Now Suspended & Might be Terminated

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Wait long, and then wait longer has pretty much been the story of the MRT to JB plans, also called the Johor Bahru–Singapore Rapid Transit System.

Because of all the delays, it doesn’t really matter even if you have been living in North Korea and haven’t heard the news.

But here’s the summary:

  • The idea for a rapid transit system between Singapore and JB suggested in 1991
  • Proposed during Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat on 24 May 2010, to be operational by 2018
  • June 2011, Singapore informed Malaysia that the rail link will start at Woodlands North MRT/RTS station
  • Tender in November 2011 for a preliminary engineering study, completed in March 2014 by a consortium of Aecom Perunding, Aecom Singapore and SA Architects
  • September 2014, Malaysia chose Bukit Chagar as its terminating station, but Singapore unable to finalise the alignment of the crossing without confirming the location of Malaysia’s RTS terminus from Malaysia.
  • 13 December 2016, announcement that the link will adopt Thomson–East Coast MRT line’s (TEL) system, operated by a corporate entity.
  • July 2017, announcement that the link would start operating by Dec 31, 2024. Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia were appointed as operators, with both negotiating terms for the joint venture.
  • Memorandum of understanding signed between SMRT Corporation and Prasarana Malaysia in September 2017
  • On 16 January 2018, Singapore and Malaysia signed a bilateral agreement on the project. Construction of the 4km link set to begin in 2019.

Everything seems to be going okayish, until the Malaysian elections in 2018.

What Changed?

  • End-May 2018, Malaysia’s new Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook mention that Malaysia remains committed to the project.
  • Mid-July 2018, Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that we had not heard anything official from the new Malaysian government.
  • End-July 2018, Loke Siew Fook expressed hope that the project would proceed as planned and that the Malaysian cabinet has given in-principle approval to the project.
  • 13 October 2018, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority called for a tender for constructing a 1.1km tunnel and overhead bridge to Johor in end-September 2018. Construction scheduled to begin mid-2019.
  • 14 January 2019, Khaw Boon Wan said the project is not progressing well, with Malaysia missing deadlines. Deadlines were extended until September 2018, then December 2018, then February 2019.
  • 8 April 2019, announcement that Singapore and Malaysia working to temporarily suspend the project for 6 months.

And on 21 May 2019, after all of that, it is officially suspended until 30 September 2019.

Malaysia to compensate more than S$600,000

With all the work done, there are costs suffered by Singapore that are essentially wasted work called abortive costs. This will be more than S$600,000.

Singapore has already put in more than S$66 million in the project, which will only be paid if Malaysia decides to actually terminate the project.

Basically, Malaysia has decided to be that guy in group projects who always hands in work late 1 or 2 days late. But because there’s no teacher, that 1 or 2 days late becomes “until I feel like it”.

A reminder that about 300,000 people cross SG-JB every day

It’s not really a secret that a lot of Malaysians working in Singapore and a lot of Singaporeans like to go over to JB. In actual fact, more than 300,000 people cross the link daily.

So why this project isn’t more prioritised can only be speculated, but let us pray for all the time wasted travelling.