All smiles as Malaysia and Singapore resume RTS

JOHOR BAHRU, July 30 — Malaysia and Singapore were all smiles when prime ministers Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Lee Hsien Loong greeted each other at the midpoint of the Johor Causeway this morning in a symbolic gesture to resume the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project.

Wearing face masks, the two leaders talked in a cordial atmosphere at the event, which has been described as historic for the two neighbours.

“Thank you for settling the agreement (RTS) with us,” said Lee to Muhyiddin, who replied, “Thank you for working hard.”

Furthermore, Lee said, the project would be starting off and would be completed in six years.

“Insya-Allah,” replied Muhyiddin.

The two leaders, whose countries are battling hard to contain the spread of COVID-19, also took time to ask about the current situation on the pandemic in their countries.

“I hope the next time I can cross the line (while pointing to the yellow line separating the two leaders) without being quarantined,” he said to Lee, to which both laughed.

The two leaders, as well as ministers from both sides, were also in sync, wearing batik shirts for the auspicious event.

The 15-minute meeting is regarded as historic and symbolic as it was their first meeting on the Johor Causeway, which was used by 350,000 travellers daily before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced on March 18.

It was also their first face-to-face meeting since Muhyiddin was appointed as the 8th prime minister on March 1, while Lee himself was just sworn in for another term as prime minister on July 27, following the victory of his party, People’s Action Party (PAP), in the recent general election.

After three postponements, Malaysia and Singapore have finally agreed to proceed with the RTS construction.

RTS, a four-kilometre rail line connecting Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru city (the capital of Malaysia’s southern state of Johor) and Woodlands in Singapore, will help reduce congestion on the Johor Causeway.

The RM10 billion RTS project has gone through a series of discussions under three Malaysian prime ministers, with the specifications having been agreed upon by Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia will bear about US$872.14 million (RM3.7 billion) of the cost and Singapore the rest.

The two-phase project is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed by the end of 2026.


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