Tuesday, 8 August 2017

(NST) Rahman Dahlan to seek audience with Johor Sultan over RTS issue

KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan today acknowledged concerns raised by the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Johor Baru-Singapore project.

Rahman said he would seek an audience with the Sultan as soon the palace agrees to a date.

In a statement issued today, Rahman explained that a series of extensive studies were conducted for the proposed project, which covered several aspects such as on the technical, alignment and viability of the project.

"Malaysia and Singapore can look forward to better connectivity and accessibility once the proposed RTS project which will connect Johor Baru and Singapore materialises in 2024.

"The RTS would take the pressure off the Causeway and save journey time as it would be a station-to-station connectivity with integrated customs and immigration check points," he said.

Sultan Ibrahim had raised concerns over the proposed RTS rail track, including an elevated bridge, linking Woodlands in Singapore and Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru.

Sultan Ibrahim had said the proposed curved design of the rail link as well as the elevated bridge was impractical, unsustainable and potentially costly. It would also disrupt the city skyline along the Johor Straits, he said.

"We acknowledge the issues and concerns raised by His Royal Highness Sultan of Johor and will seek an immediate audience with His Royal Highness as soon as the palace has confirmed the date," Rahman added.

The RTS rail link 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 commute at the Malaysia-Singapore Causeway daily.

The RTS is expected to accommodate up to 10,000 passengers an hour in each direction between its terminus stations at Bukit Chagar, Johor Baru and Woodlands, Singapore.

On the Singapore side, the rail 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.

Meanwhile, Johor Menteri Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin said the state government supports the view of the Sultan that the development needs tweaking.

Khaled said the state government is fully aware of the Johor ruler’s take on the project especially when he pointed the design flaw in the RTS project including the crooked rail way track alignment and the 30m elevated bridge which he sees as unfit as it blocks the Johor skyline.

"We fully support the concerns the Sultan of Johor has raised about the project and will extend his concerns and suggestions to the Federal government for serious consideration," he said.

He said the terms of the project detailing and development specifications on the RTS project it is still open to changes as the government-to-government discussion between Malaysia and Singapore is still ongoing.

Umno's Johor Baru Member of Parliament Tan Sri Shahrir Samad also agreed with the Sultan and voiced disagreement with the proposed design.

"There are actually many people who doesn't like the curve-shaped design. I thought I was the only who didn't like it,” Shahrir said.

"When we talk about bridges, usually it must be one that is easily accessible, not a curve or crooked one," Shahrir told reporters when met at the Dewan Rakyat here today.