Johor Bahru – Singapore RTS Link
The RTS Link is the future international cross-border driverless Light Rail Transit (LRT) system that will connect Woodlands North, Singapore and Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia, crossing the Straits of Johor.
The RTS Link will operate as a simple 2-station shuttle between Woodlands North RTS Link Station, Singapore, and Bukit Chagar RTS Link Station, Johor Bahru, Malaysia at a capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour, operated by RTS Operations Sdn Bhd (RTSO) – a joint venture agreement between Singapore’s SMRT RTS Pte Ltd and Malaysia’s Prasarana RTS Operations Sdn Bhd.
RTS Link Route Map
*NOTE: Interchange connections are speculative based on current available information and services.
Route map produced by The Star.
Route map from RTS Link Public Inspection.
RTS Link Stations
RTS Link Service Patterns
Original Plan since 2011 and 2016 (No longer applicable)
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 and confirmed in the RTS Link Public Inspection
The projected capacity of the RTS Link projected to be at 10,000 passengers an hour. The RTS Link will run at 3.6 minutes frequency during peak periods and 6 minute frequency during off-peak periods. This will be served by 8 sets of 4-car LRT trains with a crush load capacity of up to 1,069 passengers per train.
RTS Link Train Schedule
The RTS Link will operate from 6.00am to 12.00am daily. The journey between Bukit Chagar RTS Link Station and Woodlands North RTS Link Station will take 6 minutes.
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.
Malaysia’s Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong promised on 30 July 2020 that RTS Link fares will be affordable. He also confirmed that ticket prices will be the same on both sides of the Causeway, factoring in conversion rates ie. whatever the fare amount is in Malaysia, Singapore will charge the same equivalent in Singapore currency. The exact fares will be announced before operations begin in 2026.
How to Buy RTS Link Ticket
To be announced before operations begin in 2026.
RTS Link Rolling Stock
Former Plan: Kawasaki Heavy Industries & CRRC Qingdao Sifang
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 was to be done at the TEL Mandai Depot, contracted out to SMRT Trains.
Malaysia’s proposed change to Light Rail Transit (LRT) system confirmed on 30 July 2020
Terrible photoshop job by yours truly.
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”. The RTS Link now needs a new depot and maintenance facility in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru, as the system will not be compatible with the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).
Image from RTS Link Public Inspection.
The RTS Link will operate with 8 sets of 4-car LRT trains, officially announced on 22 November 2020. Each LRT train will have a capacity of 605 passengers at normal loads and 1,069 passengers at the maximum crush load capacity. The driverless LRT trains will run at a maximum operational speed of 80km/h on Standard Gauge.
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.
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, then-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 then-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 then-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.
Terrible photoshop job by yours truly.
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.
The Woodlands North MRT Station Exit 2 is left unopened. This would most likely lead to the Woodlands North RTS Link Station courtyard.
The empty view of the Woodlands North RTS Link Station area.
The plot of land reserved for the Woodlands North RTS Link Station.
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.
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 then-Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
On 12 July 2020, Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said that RTS Link works are expected to start in November 2020. Out of 222 unresolved issues related to the RTS Link project, both countries have successfully solved 220, with only two more outstanding issues, which a technical committee would discuss on 13 July 2020. The RTS Link train depot would be built at a site in Wadihana in Johor Baru instead of the initial plan of just parking them in the existing Mandai Depot (TEL) in Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore would be signing the agreement on the RTS Link project at the end of July 2020.
On 21 July 2020, Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong confirmed that a signing ceremony will be held on 30 July 2020 to finalise the agreements between Singapore and Malaysia to proceed with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project. Singapore and Malaysia have completed negotiations for the Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link project and are prepared to sign three agreements during the ceremony – a bilateral agreement, a concession agreement and an agreement to form a joint venture company to operate the rail line. Further details will be updated on 30 July 2020.
On 30 July 2020, the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link Agreement between both countries was presented on the Johor–Singapore Causeway at the International Boundary Line. It was a presentation ceremony without any signing, as no person or document passed through the border between both countries.
On 30 July 2020, a joint venture agreement between Singapore’s SMRT RTS Pte Ltd and Malaysia’s Prasarana RTS Operations Sdn Bhd to constitute RTS Operations Pte Ltd as well as a concession agreement for the Government of Malaysia and the Land Transport Authority of Singapore to appoint RTS Operations Pte Ltd as the operating company (OpCo) for the first 30-year concession period was concluded.
On 30 July 2020, the targeted passenger service commencement is confirmed to be deferred from end-2024 as originally targeted to end-2026. The agreement also confirms the change to a standalone Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, instead of the leveraging the Thomson-East Coast Line MRT system. The project’s capacity remains unchanged at up to 10,000 passengers per hour per direction. The RTS Link depot will be switched from the existing Thomson-East Coast Line Mandai depot to a new depot in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru. The development and civil phase will take place from 2021 to end of 2024, while the commissioning and testing phase will take place from 2025 until the end of 2026.
Screengrab from MRT Corp’s YouTube video.
On 22 November 2020, the groundbreaking for the RTS Link site in Bukit Chagar was launched by His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, The Sultan of Johor.
RTS Link Public Inspection
The RTS Link Public Inspection will run from 15 January 2021 to 15 April 2021 virtually at https://www.mymrt.com.my/rts-link-public-inspection-2/ due to the ongoing various Malaysian Movement Control Orders. Details on the RTS Link project including plans and alignment profiles, station site context plans, trains, and details about possible land acquisitions for the project will be available for public view.