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Johor Sultan slams S’pore-JB MRT design as impractical

Johor Sultan slams S’pore-JB MRT design as impractical
The Causeway linking Woodlands to Johor Baru sees 80,000 to 100,000 people commuting to and fro daily. The Rapid Transit System is expected facilitate that commute. New Straits Times file photo

Johor Sultan slams S’pore-JB MRT design as impractical

JOHOR BARU — Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has disagreed with the proposed design for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) between Singapore and Johor, noting that the 30-metre track height and its curved design would disrupt the city’s skyline. 

In an interview with the New Straits Times, the Sultan said that while he supports the project, such a design is impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly.

“It disrupts the city skyline, and we are talking about a permanent fixture here. Go back to the drawing board and review the overall plan,” he said.

(Click to enlarge: The proposed Singapore-Johor Baru rail link. Image: New Straits Times)

He mooted a new design for the track he said which could be the same height as the Causeway or slightly elevated. 

“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? I am proposing that the design be aligned as such for practicality and it will cost less.” 

He called for the parties involved to consult him. 

“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,” he said.

The Sultan said that he would bring up his concerns over the design during a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month. 

He said he would subsequently raise the points discussed during the meeting with Putrajaya and the media.

Singapore and Malaysia will each appoint an infrastructure company to fund, build, own, maintain and upgrade the civil infrastructure and stations within their own countries.

During the interview, the Sultan questioned the need for both countries to build their respective portions of the link, adding that the project should be undertaken by a single contractor through a joint venture by Singapore and Malaysia. 

For the operating aspects of the project, SMRT and Malaysia’s metro operator Prasarana Malaysia — whose subsidiary runs the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line through Kuala Lumpur — will be exploring a joint venture to be the operating company to help design, build, finance and operate the trains, tracks and systems.

However, the Sultan stated: “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. 

“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.”

Weighing in on the issue, Johor Chief Minister Khaled Nordin said he supports the Sultan’s views. 

He said he would forward the Sultan’s suggestions to Kuala Lumpur for consideration. 

“The decision to develop the RTS is still being negotiated between the two countries and the fine-tuning of the details of the project are open for discussion,” the chief minister noted on Tuesday (Aug 8).

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a Ministry of Transport spokesperson said: “Singapore is committed to the RTS Link project, and we have been discussing its various aspects with the Malaysian Government since 2010, through the Joint Ministerial Committee on Iskandar Malaysia.”

Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport and the Land Public Transport Commission, better known as Spad, did not respond to queries by press time. AGENCIES