RTS Link | Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System

The RTS Link is the proposed international cross-border rapid transit system that would connect Woodlands, Singapore and Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, crossing the Straits of Johor. If the project proceeds, it will operate as a simple 2-station shuttle between Woodlands North RTS Station, Singapore, and Bukit Chagar RTS Station, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

RTS Link Route Map

TRAINS1M2 RTS Link

*NOTE: Interchange connections are speculative based on current available information and services.

RTS Link Service Patterns

Original Plan since 2011 and 2016

With the projected capacity of the RTS Link projected to be at 10,000 passengers an hour, and the capacity of a Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang train being at 1,280 passengers per train*, it is estimated that the RTS Link will have 8 trains per hour or 7.5 minutes frequencies.

*Train capacity derived from the existing Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang train on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

Malaysia modified idea 2019 announced in cost-cutting measures (to be further confirmed by 31 July 2020)

With the projected capacity of the RTS Link projected to be at 10,000 passengers an hour, and the capacity of a CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive (CRRC ZELC) Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) being at 1,308 passengers per train*, it is estimated that the RTS Link will have 8 trains per hour or 7.5 minutes frequencies.

*Train capacity derived from the existing CRRC ZELC LRV “Amy” train on the Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines in Kuala Lumpur.

RTS Link Train Schedule

To be announced at a later stage.

RTS Link Fares

RTS Link fares will be market-based and will neither follow Singapore’s or Malaysia’s existing bus or rail fare structures, nor the cross-border bus and train fare arrangement at the end of the Interchangeability Agreement on 8 May 1973 where passengers pay in Malaysian Ringgit or Singapore Dollars depending on the country of departure.

It was proposed for the RTS Link fare to be set at RM15 (S$5) per ride, however, this was deemed too expensive by then-Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke. This is despite existing passengers currently paying the same “high” rate for the Shuttle Tebrau, camping online 30 days before departure at 8.30am to secure their Shuttle Tebrau tickets, as peak Shuttle Tebrau tickets sell out within 2 minutes after opening for sale 30 days before departure at 8.30am.

It is worth noting that the RTS Link will not cause other existing modes of cross-border transport to be terminated, other than KTM Berhad’s services to Woodlands Train Checkpoint, and all existing cross-border transport services except for KTM Berhad’s services to Woodlands Train Checkpoint will continue to operate as usual, including but not limited to existing bus and taxi services. Passengers may continue to use existing bus and taxi services at regular set fares.

How to Buy RTS Link Ticket

To be announced at a later stage.

RTS Link Rolling Stock

Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang

TEL CT251 PV05 Mandai Depot 01 New Watermark

The RTS Link (as we know it today) was proposed to use the same trains, signalling system, communication system and Integrated Supervisory Control System as the linked Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) for economies of scale and ease of maintenance. Maintenance and storage will be done at the TEL Mandai Depot, contracted out to SMRT Trains.

Malaysia’s proposed change to Light Rail Transit system

AMY 01

On 31 October 2019, Malaysia proposed a change to the RTS Link rolling stock to a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system similar to the ones on the Ampang and Sri Petaling Lines in Kuala Lumpur “to bring down the costs in terms of the capital expenditures and operations”. However, this would logically mean that the RTS Link now needs a new depot and maintenance facility, most likely in Malaysia, as the system will not be compatible with the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL). Economies of scale on rolling stock and trackside equipment purchase would also not be able to be attained for a short shuttle line. However, if the project is done by CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., Ltd., there is potential for the rolling stock to be manufactured and assembled locally in Batu Gajah, Perak, Malaysia, as compared with overseas at Qingdao, Shandong, China in the original plan.

History of RTS Link

While first discussed as part of the Woodlands Extension, (6 station extension of the North South Line) in 1991, the RTS Link as we know it today was discussed and proposed during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat on 24 May 2010 as part of the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement Supplement 2010, targeted to be operational by 2018. This includes the reverting of Malaysian KTM land in Singapore back to Singapore’s ownership. Thereafter Malaysia may consider to relocate the KTMB Station from Woodlands to Johor.

KTM Singapore Sector 30 June 2019 078

In June 2011, Singapore proposed to Malaysia that the RTS Link will be connected to Woodlands North MRT Station at the northern end of the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

In September 2014, Malaysia chose Bukit Chagar as its terminating station.

On 13 December 2016, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and then-Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak announced together that the link will adopt the Thomson–East Coast MRT line’s system including the four core systems — trains, signalling system, communication system and Integrated Supervisory Control System in order to reap economies of scale. A high-bridge crossing was chosen for the RTS to cross the Straits of Johor. The link would be operated by a corporate entity and its fare would be market-based and set by the operator as well.

In July 2017, Singapore and Malaysia announced together that the link would start operating by 31 December 2024 – 6 years behind the original proposed launch.

On 16 January 2018, Singapore and Malaysia finally signed the bilateral agreement on the RTS Link project, 8 years after the first proposal, and on the year when the train service was originally announced to be launched.

In end-May 2018, then-Malaysia’s Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook mentioned that Malaysia remains committed to the project but the Ministry of Finance would be looking at ways to reduce the cost of the project. However, Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament that Singapore had not heard anything official from the new Malaysian government despite then-Malaysia’s Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook’s comments. A joint operating company between Singapore’s SMRT Corporation and Malaysia’s Prasarana Malaysia was supposed to be incorporated by June 30, 2018 but did not occur either as discussions between the two companies were suspended after Malaysia’s general election.

On 14 January 2019, Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan informed that the project was not progressing well, with Malaysia missing deadlines that were set in the bilateral meeting in 2018. Deadlines were extended as soon as they were negotiable – the first until September 2018, then December 2018, then February 2019.

On 8 April 2019, Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and then-Malaysia’s Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook announced that the two countries were working towards a “supplemental agreement” to temporarily suspend the project for 6 months, allowing Malaysia to review “key parameters” of the project. The suspension would be approached in the same way as was done for the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore high speed rail.

On 21 May 2019, Singapore and Malaysia agreed to suspend the project for 6 months until 30 September, after which the project was to continue. This will result in Malaysia paying Singapore more than $600,000 of abortive costs incurred due to the suspension. Should nothing be done, the project will be deemed to have been terminated by Malaysia, and thus Malaysia will have to pay more than $66 million in abortive costs to Singapore.

On 28 September 2019, Malaysia announced the extension of suspension to 31 October 2019 with no costs incurred by Malaysia this time. The extension was confirmed by Singapore’s Ministry of Transport. Should further extensions be requested by Malaysia, Singapore reserves the right to claim any additional costs incurred beyond 30 September 2019.

On 31 October 2019, then-Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that the project will go ahead with a 36 per cent cost cut from the original RM4.93 billion to RM3.16 billion. Some of the proposals include involving the developers/owners of the Bukit Chagar land to waive land costs; thereby reducing costs as well as changing to a LRT (Light Rail Transit) system to reduce costs instead of the Thomson–East Coast MRT line systems.

AMY 01

On 31 January 2020, the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) opened for revenue service. Plenty of empty spaces at Woodlands North MRT Station can be seen where the RTS Link would operate at.

TEL Woodlands North Exit 2 Outside
The Woodlands North MRT Station Exit 2 is left unopened. This would most likely lead to the Woodlands North RTS Link Station courtyard.

RTS Link Woodlands North Coast Road 001
The empty view of the Woodlands North RTS Link Station area.

RTS Link Woodlands North Empty Plot 001RTS Link Woodlands North Empty Plot 002
The plot of land reserved for the Woodlands North RTS Link Station.

RTS Link Woodlands North Tunnel from TEL 002
The buffer stop and points at the existing overrun of Woodlands North MRT Station. It is not known if the hoardings behind the buffer stop will lead to future stabling sidings or the future alignment towards the bridge over the Tebrau Strait to Bukit Chagar RTS Link Station.

RTS Link Woodlands North Tunnel from TEL 003
A pre-installed point beside the scissors crossing of Woodlands North MRT Station leads to the right, towards the future Woodlands North RTS Link Station box for rolling stock transfer to and from Mandai Depot via the TEL. If the LRT plan proceeds, it is not known if this point will be used.

On 2 May 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RTS Link project was suspended further until 31 July 2020. This will be the “third and final” extension granted to Malaysia, as mentioned by Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

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