Malaysia will proceed with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project between Johor Bahru and Singapore, with a new cost of RM3.16 billion
According to New Straits Times, the new estimated cost for the project is 36% or RM1.77 billion less than the original amount of RM4.93 billion under the previous Barisan Nasional Government.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the decision after visiting the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex in Johor Bahru yesterday, 31 October.
According to Dr Mahathir, once completed, it will help to "partially reduce the congestion problem at the causeway"
The Prime Minister, however, noted that the most efficient way to solve the causeway congestion problem was to build a new bridge.
"But we can't build another one because Singapore refuses. I don't know why," he said sarcastically, according to The Star.
"Johor has been very generous by selling raw water to them at three sen per 1,000 gallons. I don't see how we can be so accommodating to Singapore, but they can't do the same to us," he added.
The bilateral agreement for the RTS project was signed by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in January last year
However, in May, the current government under Pakatan Harapan administration made a request for the suspension of the project as it wanted more time to decide on whether to proceed with it, or to make changes to the initial proposal.
The six-month suspension was supposed to end on 30 September, but was extended to 31 October.
The RTS will link Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore
In a separate media conference, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the proposed system would be similar to the LRT system in the Klang Valley area.
The train would have the capacity to transport 10,000 passengers an hour in one direction during peak periods.
He declined to elaborate further on the project, including the revised fare and the size of the station, until the agreements have been signed.
The project is targeted for completion by 2024
Loke said the RTS project could not be started immediately.
"We can't expect that we make a decision today, we can go in tomorrow," he said, as quoted by Bernama.
He expects construction work to begin only after three agreements are signed by both countries early next year.
The agreements expected to be signed are the amended bilateral agreement, joint venture agreement, and sole concession agreement.
Meanwhile, Singapore has welcomed Malaysia's decision to proceed with the project
"Both sides are now discussing the changes to the project, which Malaysia is proposing in order to reduce the project cost," the republic's Ministry of Transport said in a statement.
"The discussions will take some time. Both sides are working hard on this," it said.
Earlier this year, when the RTS project was stalled due to a land issue, media reported that a tract of land in Bukit Chagar meant for the project was transferred to the Johor Sultan: