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Lee Wei Lian
The Malaysia Insider
Johor Bahru and Singapore will be linked by a rapid transit system by 2018 as part of efforts to increase connectivity between the two cities.
The transit system, which was jointly announced today by the prime ministers of Malaysia and Singapore, will link Tanjung Puteri in Johor Bahru with the island republic and will be integrated with the public transport system in both countries. There will be a single co-located Customs Immigration Quarantine (CIQ) facility in Singapore with a location that is yet to be determined. With the new CIQ facility, Malaysia may consider relocating the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) train station from Singapore to Malaysia.
The announcement of the rapid transit system comes as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong agreed today to relocate to Woodlands the 78-year-old Tanjong Pagar railway station operated by KTMB.
The relocation, to take place on July 1 next year, marks a major step in resolving a number of outstanding bilateral issues between the two countries, as first reported by The Malaysian Insider last September 29.
According to a statement released after a meeting between Najib and Lee here today, the two governments will also form a company — MS Pte Ltd — to jointly develop three parcels of land owned by KTMB in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji and Woodlands, along with another three pieces of land in Bukit Timah, which in turn could be swapped on the basis of equivalent value for pieces of land in Marina South and/or Ophir-Rochor.
The land swap has been contentious since the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement (POA) was signed in 1990 over the issue of the future of the railway land. The POA was signed between former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Malaysian Finance Minister Tun Daim Zanuddin.
As part of the package of agreements, toll charges on the second link bridge between Singapore and Malaysia will also be reduced with the quantum of reduction to be announced within a month.
The previously announced iconic development in Iskandar Malaysia was also discussed with the two prime ministers supportive of the concept of a 500 acre wellness township that will offer lifestyle incorporating traditional, alternative and modern healing treatments. It was agreed that the wellness township project will be jointly developed by Khazanah Nasional Berhad and Temasek Holdings Ltd via a 50:50 joint venture company.
Lee also informed Najib that when the 1961 Water Agreement expires, Singapore would hand over the waterworks under the 1961 Water Agreement to the Johor water authorities without charge and in good working order.
Both Najib and Lee expressed satisfaction that the arrangements relating to the POA would facilitate resolution of the issues that have been outstanding for more than 19 years and reaffirmed their commitment towards strengthening bilateral relations and mutual collaboration.
Another agreements reached today include the liberalisation of taxi services. Taxis will be allowed to pick up and drop off passengers from any location on the domestic leg of their journey and not only at designated taxi terminals.
The joint development company, M-S Pte Ltd will also be established as soon as possible but no later than 31 December 2010.
The Tanjong Pagar Railway Station Passenger Terminal building will be conserved due to its historical significance and will be featured as a centrepiece for the new proposed development.
The two countries will also share experience and jointly develop plans for river cleaning in Johor as well as look into twinning eco-tourism products.
A joint implementation team will be formed and led by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore to work out implementation details. The team will complete their work by December 31 2010.