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Tue, May 25, 2010
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Better travel links to Malaysia

By Lee Hui Chieh

BY 2018, commuters will be able to travel between Singapore and Malaysia's Johor Baru and Tanjung Puteri using a rapid-transit system, to be jointly developed by Singapore and Malaysia, the prime ministers of both countries said yesterday.

The toll charges for the Second Link will be cut on both sides; the number of cross-border bus services will be doubled with eight new bus services; and cross-border taxi services will be liberalised, among other measures to improve connectivity between both countries.

And, in a landmark move, the railway station in Tanjong Pagar, owned by Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), will move to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint by July 1 next year. This might be moved to Johor when the proposed rapid transit system is up.

Malaysia will co-locate its railway Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facilities at the checkpoint.

The Tanjong Pagar site and five other parcels of land in Singapore owned by Malaysia - in Bukit Timah, Kranji and Woodlands - will be managed by a new company jointly owned by Malaysia and Singapore.

They may be swopped for pieces of land of equivalent value in Marina South and/or the Ophir and Rochor area.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit Kuala Lumpur within a month with a proposal for the swop, after both countries conduct their own valuations of the land.

The railway buildings at Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Timah will be conserved.

The issue of Malaysian railway land here has dogged bilateral relations for decades, and stalled after both countries signed the Points of Agreement (POA) on its status and development in 1990.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the deal was "historic because we see now the light at the end of the tunnel with respect to an outstanding issue that has been lingering almost 20 years".

PM Lee said: "It enables us to move forward on so many other areas, to cooperate and work together for mutual benefits without having this outstanding issue always there."

Asked why the deal worked now, he said: "There's a willingness on both sides to look forward and to resolve this matter.

"There is urgency. This matter really cannot wait indefinitely because it's already been 20 years and there are many development projects in Singapore which have been held up because the POA has not been implemented as it should have been many years ago."

He added that both sides recognised the need to work together and develop a win-win relationship to stay ahead of the competition from other countries in Asia.

The company, called M-S Pte Ltd, will be set up before the end of this year, with Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional holding 60 per cent of the shares, and Singapore's Temasek Holdings taking the remaining 40 per cent.

The ownership of the six parcels of land will be transferred to it when KTM vacates Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

PM Lee and Datuk Seri Najib have appointed a joint implementation team, led by the secretary- general of Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the permanent secretary of Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to work out the details by the end of this year.

huichieh@sph.com.sg


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