Dr Mahathir questions Johor Bahru-Singapore RTS Link design, cites maritime passage concerns

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has questioned the Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) project between Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Dr Mahathir said the new RTS Link would cross the Straits of Johor on elevated tracks and doesn’t seem designed for ships to sail between the pylons.

“Great things are happening in the south. Concrete pylons are rising across the Straits of Johor,” he said today.

“We don’t hear much about this project locally. It can’t be built without the Malaysian Government’s approval. We always approve projects by Singapore.”

However, he said the project doesn’t allow ships to sail from the Straits of Johor to Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas.

“This is not the reason why Singapore is against replacing the causeway with a bridge. But the fact remains that as long as the causeway is there, it will not be possible to sail along the Straits of Johor from Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas,” he wrote.

“If a bridge is built, it would be possible for barges and boats to ply between Pasir Gudang port and Tanjung Pelepas.

“Currently, sailing from Pasir Gudang to Tanjung Pelepas takes four times longer than direct sailing along the Straits of Johor.”

The bridge Mahathir was referring to was his 2003 suggestion that Malaysia build a “Crooked Bridge” – a six-lane S-shaped highway that would curve in such a way that would allow vessels to pass under it – from Johor Bahru to Singapore, to replace the old causeway.

However, Singapore disagreed with the plan. Mahathir’s successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, rejected the idea after he became prime minister in 2003. Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who replaced Abdullah, was also against reviving the project.

When Mahathir became prime minister for the second time in 2018, he floated the idea of restarting the “Crooked Bridge” project, but it didn’t get off the ground.

The RTS Link Project is a railway shuttle link approximately 4km in length. It has two stations – one in Bukit Chagar, Johor Bahru, and one in Woodlands, Singapore.

The RTS Link will be integrated with public transport systems at both stations, providing an alternative means of transportation that will help alleviate the congestion at immigration checkpoints of both countries.

The link, which was reported to be more than 65 per cent ready in January, will have a capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour, per direction, and an expected ridership of about 40,000 passengers per day. It is expected to be operational at the end of 2026.

“Maybe now Singapore might look kindly at the Malaysian proposal to dismantle the causeway and replace it with a bridge,” wrote Mahathir.

“In the meantime, we can all enjoy Singapore hospitality on the 4km ride on the RTS,” he added.

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