Malaysia-Singapore rail link deal to be inked

Malaysian and Singaporean officials will today sign agreements to proceed with the construction of the highly anticipated Rapid Transit System

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Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Malaysian and Singaporean officials will today sign agreements to proceed with the construction of the highly anticipated Rapid Transit System (RTS).

The RTS is a light rail that will run between Malaysia’s Johor Bahru and Singapore, providing residents of both cities with a faster and cheaper means of crossing the border. With construction slated to begin in January 2021, the five-year project should be completed by 2026 and cost an estimated $880 million. When operational, the RTS will be capable of transporting 10,000 people per hour, alleviating congestion on the existing Causeway bridge crossing.

Expect the currently proposed RTS deal to be signed by both sides, ending a decade of negotiations. There is increased impetus to sign in the short-term, as COVID-19 has stranded migrant workers in crowded dormitories and exacerbated the viral spread. Existing border crossings are not equipped to handle the current health risks associated with travel and so they have remained shut; the new rail link will be built with testing and quarantine facilities on both ends, ensuring workers can safely exit Singapore. However, timely construction is still contingent upon both sides’ ability to ensure safe working conditions. In the long-term, expect the RTS to promote labour market integration between the two countries to attract Malays to Johor Bahru, increasing the effective labour pool within Singapore and cutting the associated costs.

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