Friday, June 22, 2012

JB-S’pore RTS project being evaluated, Dewan Rakyat told

JB-S’pore RTS project being evaluated, Dewan Rakyat told

The bullet train project between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is not a priority for both the Malaysian and Singapore governments as much as the rapid transit rail system (RTS) between Johor Baru (JB) and Singapore, according to the Malaysian government. Working committees from both the Malaysian and Singapore governments are evaluating open tender bids for the RTS, aimed to relieve peak hour traffic between both countries, and expect the project to be completed by 2018, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

“Construction is expected to commence in 2014 and complete in 2018,” he said in response to Tebrau Member of Parliament (MP) Teng Boon Soon on updates on the proposals to build the mass rapid transit and underwater tunnel between Singapore and Johor Baru as well as the Johor Baru-Kuala Lumpur (KL) bullet train.

The international open tender exercise for the RTS project, expected to include an underground tunnel between both cities, was opened in November and closed in February this year, he said.

The evaluation process has to comply with the requirements set by both countries, he said, adding that the cost for building the RTS will be borne by both governments. He said that the RTS was discussed by both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the last three ministerial retreats between both countries but the bullet train was "not given priority".

At present, it was more important to relieve peak hour traffic between Malaysia’s southern-most city and Singapore as between 30,000 and 40,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans cross over into the both countries at peak hours, with a total of 320,000 people making daily crossovers on normal working days.

“During public holidays, the number doubles,” he said.

Despite this, Ahmad said the government has not dropped the bullet train project and results of the feasibility study will be announced in due course. The project was mooted by YTL Corp Bhd, helmed by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, in 2006.

The bullet train project has surfaced a number of times since the 1990s. According to news reports in 2008, the government dropped the project, then being bandied with a price tag of RM8 billion, due to the high cost of construction but the project found its way into the limelight again in 2010 when it was announced as a potential Entry Point Project under the ETP.

When asked by Opposition MP for Kuala Selangor Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad on the reason for the delay in announcing the bullet train project for which the cost will continue to grow as the years pass, Ahmad said KL-Singapore travellers have the North-South Expressway to serve their current needs.

The bullet train is touted to cut down travelling time between both cities from six hours by road to 90 minutes.

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