KUALA LUMPUR— Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar said he would not bless the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link project if the design of its height remained unchanged.
In an interview with Berita Harian and New Straits Times, the ruler said building a rail link at 30 metres high to connect Bukit Chagar in Johor and Woodlands, Singapore, will be costly and affect the beautiful view of southern Johor.
“The governments of Singapore and Malaysia must restudy the design and negotiate with me. Whatever that is presented to me must be economically good for the people of Johor, Malaysians and Singaporeans,” he was quoted as saying.
“If I don’t like it…the people of Johor also don’t like it…and if you go ahead (with the project), I will not give my blessings,” Sultan Ibrahim said.
The sultan said it made more sense to build the rail link straight and much lower than the agreed upon height.
“We view the design (of the project) seriously, and when I say ‘we’, I am referring to the people of Johor,” he was quoted as saying.
Sultan Ibrahim also questioned the reason for both countries to engage two separate contractors in the project, adding that Malaysia and Singapore should only hire one contractor for the job and share the costs.
The sultan said he will put forward these suggestions when he meets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month.
“I will inform the Malaysian government and the media of what transpired after the meeting,” he was quoted as saying.
The RTS Link will connect Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Baru via a high bridge across the Straits of Johor, with a connection to Singapore’s upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line.
Once the RTS Link starts passenger service, the Tebrau train service run by Malaysian railway operator KTM Berhad will cease operations.
The link, which was proposed in 2010, is expected to carry up to 10,000 passengers per direction per hour.
MEANWHILE, according to The Malaysian Insight:
THE sultan of Johor has rejected the design of an iconic project between Malaysia and Singapore, and questioned the need for a federal agency to drive a project in the southern state.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar’s move was the latest by the influential Malay ruler keen on imposing his unquestionable power and authority in Johor.
He told the New Straits Times that the proposed Rail Transit System (RTS) from Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru to Woodlands in Singapore should have a practical design, instead of the current curved design and a plan to build a bridge as high as 30m above water in the middle section.
“Why do we have to have a curved design when we can have a more practical design that is straighter and closer to the Causeway?” he said in an exclusive interview with the Umno-linked daily.
The RTS was announced on July 31 and is to start operations by December 2024 through a joint venture involving Singapore’s rail operator, SMRT Corp, and Malaysia’s urban rail firm, Prasarana Malaysia Bhd.
The RTS concession period is 30 years for the initial contract.
However, the Johor ruler questions Prasarana’s role in developing and running the rail link between the two countries.
“Why must it be Prasarana? Why not the Johor government?
“Please remember that land is a state matter. My priority is the people of Johor; that they are happy with what is being decided,” he said.
While he emphasised that he agreed with the project, Sultan Ibrahim said the state government should be the one to undertake the joint venture with Singapore.
“The project is entirely in Johor, so why should Prasarana be involved? Let the Johor government and Singapore have a joint venture, and I can raise funds if need be,” he said, questioning the need for separate contractors to build portions of the link in the respective countries involved.
The Johor ruler suggested that the project could, instead, be undertaken by a single contractor through a joint venture between Malaysia and Singapore, adding that he would speak with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month, as well as Putrajaya.
“Unless you live in Johor, you won’t understand the Johor sentiment.”
He was precise over his reservations about the rail design, saying the proposed one would disrupt the city skyline.
“The parties also have to consult me. Whatever (new plan) is presented to me, it will have to be logical, economical and sustainable for the benefit of not only Johoreans, but all Malaysians and Singaporeans.”
Sultan Ibrahim also said the curved design of the link, as well as the elevated bridge, was impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly.
“Why do they need an elevated bridge with up to 30m air draft (clearance height from the water to a vessel’s height) unless there are plans to remove the Causeway?
“I am proposing that the design be aligned as such for practicality, and it will cost less,” he said, sketching a design for the NST editors conducting the interview.
“The design matters to us, and by ‘us’, I mean Johor.”
The RTS was announced by the Malaysian and Singaporean governments seven years ago to provide a much-needed alternative to the 80,000 to 100,000 people who cross the Malaysia-Singapore Causeway daily.
The link is expected to accommodate up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction, between its terminus stations in Bukit Chagar and Woodlands.
On the Singaporean side, the link will join the republic’s Mass Rapid Transit at its upcoming Thomson East Coast Line (TEL).
The 31-station TEL project will open in phases, from 2019 to 2024. – August 8, 2017.
MALAY MAIL /MALAYSIAN INSIGHT