The MRT Line from Woodlands to JB Will Be Ready by End-2026

Remember the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link?

Its construction has been delayed and derailed many times.

However, plans for the RTS appear to be back on track.

The project is slated to be completed by the end of 2026.

Meeting Between Singapore and Malaysia’s Foreign Ministers

The news was announced after a meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and his Malaysian counterpart Zambry Abdul Kadir.

The foreign ministers met to evaluate the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said, “the ministers noted the good progress on the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link project and looked forward to the commencement of passenger services by end-2026.”

It appears that the project is moving full speed ahead.

What is the RTS Project?

When the RTS project is completed, the 4km shuttle service will allow passengers to travel from Woodlands North MRT station to Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru and vice versa.

It will only take five minutes to travel between the two countries.

That’s way faster than the time I need to travel to Orchard.

In addition, the shuttle service can ferry 10,000 passengers per hour.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) stated that during the year-end holiday season in 2022, more than a million travellers passed through the checkpoints between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

With Chinese New Year coming up, the ICA has even warned those intending to visit Malaysia to factor in time for immigration clearance since the waiting time is expected to be three hours.

The RTS’s completion will allow people to use another way to travel to Johor Bahru, reducing the crowd taking the Johor-Singapore causeway.

Thus, when the RTS project is complete, it will make seeing your loved ones residing in Malaysia a less tedious process.

A History of Derailed Plans

The idea of an RTS linking Singapore and Malaysia has been a long time in the making.

The idea was first suggested in 1991.

It was then revisited in 2010 during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat.

In late 2016, the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia confirmed a high-bridge crossing for the RTS.

In 2017, it was even slated to begin operations in end-2024.

However, the Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Ismail began expressing reservations about the rail’s design, citing that it would disrupt the city skyline along the Johor Straits.

He also questioned why both countries had to engage separate contractors to build their respective portions of the link in their countries.

Thus, SMRT Corporation and Prasarana Malaysia achieved a memorandum of understanding in September 2018, where they agreed to form a joint venture company to operate the link.

While both countries signed a bilateral agreement on the project to finalise certain aspects in early 2018, the 2018 Malaysian general election later that year saw a change in governance, causing a delay in progress. 

After Malaysia announced that the project would proceed, albeit with significant financial cuts, the project was further delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, though Malaysia saw a change of governance again towards the end of 2022, Malaysia’s Mass Rapid Transit Corp CEO Mohd Zarif Hashim stated that the RTS project was not affected, according to The Straits Times.

It was already more than 20% complete.

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Reaffirmation of Bilateral Ties

Dr Balakrishnan is currently on a four-day visit to Malaysia.

In a show of reaffirming bilateral ties, he invited Datuk Seri Zambry to make an official visit to Singapore. 

He was also granted an audience with Malaysia’s King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.

Dr Balakrishnan is slated to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli, Defence Minister Mohamad Hasan and Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Ahmad.

Singapore and Malaysia have enjoyed long-standing good relations with one another.

Both countries have strong ties in aspects like bilateral trade, investment and tourism.

This visit by Dr Balakrishnan is one of many that demonstrates the friendship between the countries.

Besides discussing the RTS project, the MFA stated that the ministers also discussed expanding bilateral collaboration, including new areas like digital and green economies.

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Featured Image: + NoriD’Petir/