Singapore–Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS Link)

Singapore–Johor Bahru RTS Link
Type Rapid Transit
Station Count 2
Line length 4 km (Under planning)
Termini Bukit Chagar
Woodlands North
Depot Wadi Hana (Johor Bahru)
Operational Data
Operator TBC
Rolling stock LRT Vehicle
Electrification 750 V DC third rail
Track gauge Standard Gauge (1435mm)
Opening End 2026

The Singapore–Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System, or the RTS Link, is a future rapid transit line currently under planning. The line is conceived as a high-volume shuttle service connecting Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

First announced in 2010, the Singapore terminus of the route will be at Woodlands North station, connecting with the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL). The Malaysian terminus will be at Bukit Chagar near JB Sentral, connecting with the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) station for intercity rail services. Immigration facilities will be co-located on both sides of the border, such that passengers will clear customs of both countries at their point of departure.

Initially, the line was planned to use the Thomson-East Coast Line’s systems, including its signalling system, rolling stock, communication system and integrated supervisory control system, to reap economies of scale. This would mean that the rolling stock will be the Kawasaki-Sifang CT251, operating in a four-car formation and based out of Mandai Depot in Singapore. However, this was changed to a Light Rail Transit system based from a new depot in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru, Malaysia instead to reduce project costs as part of the bilateral agreement on the Resumption of the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System Link Project signed in July 2020.

Originally, the line was projected to be opened by 31 December 2024. This deadline was pushed back to end-2026 due to early delays in reaching project milestones, and additional complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Timeline & History

  • May 2010: Plans announced for a Rapid Transit System Link between Singapore and Johor Bahru
  • June 2011: Singapore terminus confirmed at Woodlands North, interchanging with Thomson Line
  • May 2012: Preliminary Engineering Study carried out by Aecom
  • September 2015: Malaysia terminus confirmed at Bukit Chagar
  • July 2016: Phase 2 Engineering Study carried out
  • 2016 (13 Dec): High bridge chosen for Johor Strait crossing, Thomson-East Coast Line’s systems adopted
  • 2017 (31 Jul): Timeframe of December 2024 set, intention to appoint joint venture company
  • 2017 (25 Sep): SMRT, Prasarana sign MOU to form joint venture company
  • 2018 (16 Jan): Bilateral Agreement signed
  • 2018 (31 Jan): Contract T232 for RTS Link construction published (Stations, Tunnel and CIQ Building)
  • 2018 (09 Feb): Prasarana, SMRT accepted Letter of Offer jointly issued by SG/MY governments, to form a joint venture company (JV Co) before 30 June 2018
  • 2018 (01 Jun): Original planned signing of JV Co date; Malaysia Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced delay of signing till 30 June 2018.
  • 2018 (30 Jun): Deadline of forming of JV Co lapsed, with Malaysia considering replacing its joint venture partner
  • 2018 (28 Sep): Contract T235 for RTS Link construction published (Viaducts and Tunnel)
  • 2018 (30 Sep): Deadline of appointing JV Co as RTS Link operator (OpCo) through a Concession Agreement (CA) with LTA and the government of Malaysia lapsed
  • 2018 (28 Dec): Malaysia requests deadline extension to 28 Feb 2019 to confirm the JV Partner
  • 2019: Original projected start of construction work
  • 2019 (28 Feb): Malaysia requests further deadline extension to 31 Mar 2019 to confirm the JV Partner
  • 2019 (31 Mar): Deadline for calling of joint tender
  • 2019 (01 Apr): Malaysia requested for 6 more months to deliberate on the RTS Link project
  • 2019 (21 May): 6-month suspension of RTS Link project till 30 Sep 2019.
  • 2019 (Sep): Further 1-month suspension of RTS Link project till 30 Oct 2019, at the request of Malaysia.
  • 2019 (31 Oct): Malaysia confirms its decision to proceed with RTS Link construction; revised project cost of RM3.16 billion (S$1.03 billion) – 36 per cent less than the original.
  • 2019 (4 Nov): Another 6-month suspension to 30 April 2020, for Malaysia to detail its proposed changes to the RTS Link
  • 2020 (2 May): Further 3-month suspension to 31 July 2020 at Malaysia’s request, citing change of Government in Malaysia and COVID-19 situation.
  • 2020 (30 Jul): Signing of restated Bilateral Agreement (Resumption of the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System Link Project)
  • 2021 (Jan): Projected start of construction
  • 2025: Projected commissioning and testing phase
  • End-2026: Projected Opening of RTS Link; ceasing of KTMB Shuttle Tebrau (within 6 months of RTS Link opening)
Groundwork + Initial Contracts

On 24 May 2010, at a Leaders’ Retreat attended by Singapore and Malaysian leaders, both countries agreed to pursue a Rapid Transit System Link between Johor Bahru and Singapore, enhancing connectivity between the two countries. The rapid transit system link will be integrated with public transport services in both Johor Bahru and Singapore, with co-located Customs, Inspection and Quarantine facilities on the Singapore side.

In June 2011, Singapore confirmed that it would site the RTS Link’s terminus at Woodlands North, interchanging with the future Thomson Line. Around the same time, discussions in Malaysia called for several stations in Johor Bahru, but no official plans were pursued.

In May 2012, a consortium of AECOM Singapore, AECOM Perunding and SA Architects were awarded a US$42 million contract co-funded by Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) for a design and engineering consultancy for the RTS Link. The study was to determine the technical parameters and options for a convenient and cost-effective system that would be integrated with public transport services at both ends.

In September 2014, the Malaysian Ministry of Rural and Regional Development’s chairman stated that the RTS Link’s terminus would be sited at Bukit Chagar, over potential sites such as Tanjung Puteri and JB Sentral. However, it was only in September 2015, four years after Singapore, that the Malaysian Minister of Transport confirmed the Bukit Chagar plan, paving the way for the Phase 2 Engineering Study, intended to develop the detailed engineering design for the rapid transit system project.

At a joint news conference between Singapore and Malaysian leaders on 13 December 2016, a high bridge was chosen for the crossing of the Johor Strait, clearing the way for a bilateral agreement by the end of 2017. A decision was also made to adopt the Thomson-East Coast Line’s systems to reap economies of scale. As such, the RTS Link’s signalling system, rolling stock, communication system and integrated supervisory control system will be identical to that used on the TEL.

On 31 July 2017, at the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, it was announced that passenger service on the RTS Link will begin by December 2024. Both governments also intend to jointly appoint an operating company to design, build, finance, operate, maintain and renew the RTS Link operating assets like trains, tracks and systems. On 25 September 2017, SMRT and Prasarana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to form a joint venture company for the RTS Link.

On 16 January 2018, the landmark Bilateral Agreement was signed between the Singapore and Malaysia governments to proceed with the RTS Link project. Key points of agreement on the RTS Link, including the technical, safety and security requirements, commercial, financing, procurement and regulatory frameworks, as well as customs, immigration and quarantine arrangements, were indicated in this legally-binding agreement.

On 31 January 2018, the first civil engineering tender was published by Singapore: Contract T232 for the Construction of Station, Tunnels and CIQ Building for Rapid Transit Systems (RTS) Link.

On 9 February 2018, Prasarana Malaysia Berhad (Prasarana) and SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT) accepted a Letter of Offer jointly issued by Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) for the two companies to form a joint venture company (JV Co) to operate the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) by 30 June 2018. The JV Co will design, build, finance, operate, maintain and renew the RTS Link operating assets such as trains, tracks and systems.

In the wake of the 2018 Malaysian general election, Malaysia reaffirmed its commitment to the RTS Link despite efforts to reduce its national debt. In end-July 2018, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced that a working paper would be presented to the Malaysian Cabinet for cost approval, and reaffirmed commitment to the 2024 deadline despite the delays.

On 28 September 2018, the second civil engineering tender was published by Singapore: Contract T235 for the Construction of Viaduct and Tunnels for Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link.

Delays and more delays

On 14 January 2019, Transport Minister Mr Khaw Boon Wan mentioned that the RTS Link completion date would likely be delayed beyond the original target of 31 December 2024. Deadlines that had been set in the bilateral meeting in 2018 were extended as soon as they were negotiable – the first until September 2018, then December 2018, then February 2019.

On 1 April 2019, Malaysia announced that it was seeking a six-month suspension to re-evaluate key parameters of the project, with a focus on reducing the cost of implementation. The following week, on 8 April 2019, a joint press conference between Transport Ministers Loke Siew Fook and Khaw Boon Wan announced that a “supplemental agreement” was being worked out to temporarily suspend the project for 6 months.

The supplemental agreement was signed on 21 May 2019, with Malaysia paying S$600,000 of abortive costs to Singapore. A new deadline of 30 September 2019 was inked, after which the project was to continue. Malaysia would have to pay more than S$66 million if it decided to terminate the RTS Link project by then.

On 28 September 2019, Malaysia announced that it had sought a further one-month suspension to 31 October 2019, which had been granted by Singapore the day before. This time, Malaysia needed more time to study the project’s financial risk to the government. Singapore’s Ministry of Transport confirmed this in a media statement 2 days later, while adding that Singapore reserved the right to claim any additional costs incurred beyond 30 September 2019 should Malaysia request any further extensions of the suspension period.

On 11 October 2019, Malaysia announced its intention to proceed with the RTS Link as a long-term solution to cross-border traffic. This announcement was delivered as part of its 2020 Budget speech, in addition to committing RM85 million to enhance enhancing vehicle and traffic flow at the CIQ Complexes at both land crossings.

On 31 October 2019, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that the RTS Link would proceed, with proposals to amend the project and reduce costs by 36 per cent, from the original RM4.93 billion to RM3.16 billion. Key features include the involvement of the developers/owners of the Bukit Chagar land to waive land costs, and to use a medium-capacity rail system (similar to Singapore’s Jurong Region Line (JRL) and Malaysia’s Ampang and Sri Petaling lines) to reduce operating costs, rather than the heavy rail system that the Thomson-East Coast Line is based on. Malaysia added that Prasarana Malaysia would remain as the joint venture partner for the RTS, who would consult with SMRT to finalise the terms of the joint venture.

Shortly after the firm decision to continue with the RTS Link, Singapore confirmed on 4 November 2019 that it had agreed to a further six-month suspension to 30 April 2020, at the request of Malaysia made on 29 October. While the decision to proceed had been made, Malaysia was not yet ready to share the details of their proposed changes with Singapore, which meant that Singapore was unable to make a thorough assessment of the technical and commercial feasibility of the proposal.

No financial costs was incurred for this round of extension. However, due to the extent of proposed amendments (e.g. technical requirements), the Bilateral Agreement signed in 2018 would have to be restated and resigned. Thus, a total of 3 agreements had to be signed by the end of the suspension period:

  1. Restated Bilaterial Agreement
  2. Joint Venture Agreement between Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to constitute a joint venture Operating Company (“OpCo”)
  3. Concession Agreement for the Singapore and Malaysian Governments to appoint the OpCo as the RTS Link operator

On 2 May 2020, both Singapore and Malaysia confirmed a further three-month suspension to the RTS Link project, at Malaysia’s request. The change of government in Malaysia and ongoing travel restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic was cited as reasons for the slowdown of discussions. Singapore also indicated that this a ‘third and final’ extension, and expects to sign all three key agreements (RTS Link bilateral agreement, SMRT-Prasarana Joint Venture Agreement, and Concession Agreement, as elaborated above) by 31 July 2020.

On 12 July 2020, the Johor Menteri Besar disclosed that the RTS Link train depot would be built at Wadihana in Johor Bahru, instead of using the Mandai Depot in Singapore. The bilateral agreement was also on track to be signed by later that month, with construction work expected to begin in November. Further details were announced on 21 July 2020 by Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, announcing that the construction would commence in January 2021, with a revised opening date of end-2026. All these details were confirmed on 30 July 2020, when the Restated Bilateral Agreement was signed at the Causeway and witnessed by the Prime Ministers of both countries, along with

Several major changes over the original Bilateral Agreement signed in 2018 include:

Old Bilateral Agreement (Jan 2018) Restated Bilateral Agreement (Jul 2020)
Heavy rail system relying on Thomson-East Coast Line infrastructure Medum-capacity rail system system similar to Singapore’s Jurong Region Line (JRL) and the Ampang and Sri Petaling lines in Malaysia’s Klang Valley region.
Thomson-East Coast Line subsystems (e.g. signalling system, rolling stock, communication system and integrated supervisory control system) to leverage economies of scale Independent railway subsystems fully decoupled from Thomson-East Coast Line
Trains based at existing Mandai Depot, light maintenance facility at Bukit Chagar New 2.83ha depot to be constructed in Wadi Hana (Johor Bahru). Expected to offer between 400 to 500 job opportunities for locals.
Appointed infrastructure company to fund, build, own, maintain and renew the civil infrastructure and stations in its territory up to the international boundary;
Malaysia—Prasarana Malaysia Berhad
Singapore—Land Transport Authority
Appointed infrastructure company to fund, build, own, maintain and renew the civil infrastructure and stations in its territory up to the international boundary;
Malaysia—Malaysia Rapid Transit System Sdn Bhd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd)
Singapore—Land Transport Authority
Estimated cost of RM4.93 billion Estimated cost of RM3.7 billion (S$1.206 billion), inclusive of ~RM500 million to construct the depot in Johor Bahru (borne by Malaysia)
Estimated completion by end-2024 Estimated completion by end-2026

In addition, RTS Operations Pte Ltd was designated as the Operating Company for the RTS Link. It was formed by a Joint Venture Agreement between Prasarana Malaysia Bhd and SMRT Corporation.

RTS Operations Pte Ltd, a Singapore-incorporated company, would design, build, and finance the RTS Link operating assets including trains, tracks and systems. It would also operate and maintain the RTS Link for the first 30-year concession period, as granted by the Concession Agreement signed by both Singapore and Malaysian governments.

The existing KTMB Tebrau shuttle will cease operations within 6 months of the opening of the RTS Link.

The Line (LTA Press Release)

The RTS Link will have the capacity to carry up to 10,000 passengers per hour per direction, which translates to an additional capacity of 60,000 users crossing the Causeway during peak hours.  To facilitate passenger flow, it will have co-located Custom, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities in both Bukit Chagar and Woodlands North. Passengers travelling in either direction will clear both Malaysia and Singapore authorities at the point of departure, and need not go through immigration clearance again at the point of arrival.  The RTS Link’s capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) is much higher than the average 300 (pphpd) that the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad’s (KTMB) Tebrau Shuttle is ferrying today.  The KTMB Tebrau Shuttle services to Singapore will cease six months after the RTS Link passenger service begins, targeted by December 2024.

The RTS Link will cross the Straits of Johor via a 25m-high bridge, linking the Bukit Chagar Station in Johor Bahru to the RTS Link Woodlands North Station in Singapore to (See LTA Annex A). For economies of scale, the RTS Link will utilise the same four core systems (trains, signalling system, communications system, and Integrated Supervisory Control System) as Singapore’s upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL). Heavy maintenance will be outsourced to the TEL Operator – SMRT Trains – at the TEL’s Mandai Depot, though there will also be a light maintenance facility at Bukit Chagar.

Each country will appoint an Infrastructure Company (InfraCo) to fund, build, own, maintain, and renew the civil infrastructure and stations within their respective territories. Malaysia’s InfraCo will be Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, while Singapore’s InfraCo will be LTA. Both Governments will jointly appoint an operating company (OpCo) to own, design, build, finance, operate, maintain and renew the RTS Link’s operating assets (e.g. trains, tracks, systems). The OpCo will pay a concession fee to the two countries in exchange for the right to collect fare revenue from operating the RTS Link. Fares will be set commercially by the OpCo, and will not be regulated by the two Governments.

Both Governments agree that for the first concession period, which will cover the first 30 years of operations, the OpCo will be a joint venture between a Malaysian company and a Singaporean company. Both Governments welcomed the exchange of letters between the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department, Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, LTA, and SMRT Corporation Ltd, recording their commitment for Prasarana and SMRT to form a Joint Venture (JV) Company to be the OpCo for the first concession period. The companies have committed to incorporate the JV by 30 June 2018, and to sign the concession agreement by 30 September 2018. Subsequent concessions will be awarded through open tender.

Construction stages

TBA

Train Stations

  • Bukit Chagar (Malaysia)
  • Woodlands North (Singapore)

Fares

TBA

Rolling Stock

The RTS Link would be using a Light Rail Transit system based rolling stock.


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