JOHOR BARU - Malaysia and Singapore can look forward to better connectivity and accessibility once the proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS) project, which will connect Johor Baru and Singapore, materialises.
Johor Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad said southern Johor, especially Iskandar Malaysia, would benefit immensely from the RTS project.
He said both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong were expected to make a joint announcement on the project probably in May.
"This is good for thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans using the Causeway daily to commute between Johor Baru and Singapore,'' Hasni told StarBiz in an interview recently.
Back in February 2013, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced their agreement to build the High Speed Rail (HSR) between the republic and Kuala Lumpur.
The HSR is expected to be completed by 2020, but the completion date was pushed for another two years to 2022, as announced in 2015.
During the joint-announcement, Najib and Lee also announced the proposed Malaysia-Singapore RTS link expected to be up and running by 2018.
"Bukit Chagar has been chosen as the terminating station here of the RTS linking Johor Baru and Singapore,'' said Hasni, adding that the project bodes well for the multi-billion ringgit Johor Baru city centre transformation project.
He explained that the trains for the RTS would be run above ground (grate) or sunken tunnel but the main objective of the RTS was to improve connectivity and accessibility between the two countries.
KGV International Property Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd director Samuel Tan Wee Cheng said the major physical hindrance between Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia was the inefficient road connectivity despite having two links - the Causeway in Johor Baru and the Second Link Crossing in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah.
The congestion is heavy especially during peak hours and public holidays.
"This resulted in economic loss and opportunity cost as investors are deterred from investing in Iskandar Malaysia," he said.
The RTS would take the pressure off the Causeway and save time as it would be a station-to-station connectivity with the custom and immigration integrated within it.
He also noted that the Malaysian authorities must ensure ample parking at the station and reliable feeder bus system to ferry thousands of commuters daily.
"When this happens, Iskandar Malaysia will experience increased excitement especially in the property sector,'' added Tan.
He added Malaysians and even some Singaporeans would stay in Iskandar Malaysia and commute to the republic daily for work and Iskandar Malaysian residential properties would be a good proposition for holiday home.
Tan noted that the less congested links would encourage more factories from Singapore to relocate their operations to the economic growth corridor here and this would push demand for industrial properties.
He said Iskandar Malaysia would then become an alternative site for the Singapore-based companies wanting to offer products or services at a lower cost compared with Singapore.
"The retail sector will also benefit from this development due to the influx of population from the city state and the strong Singapore dollar,'' said Tan.
Other economic segments which would also benefit from the RTS include hospitality, tourism, food and beverage, medical, entertainment and education.
Meanwhile, Johor Real Housing Estate and Developers branch chairman Hoe Mee Ling said the RTS would be a catalyst to the property development in Iskandar Malaysia.
With more job creations and higher population, the two factors would create higher housing demand in south Johor to cater for the influx of domestic and foreign investors.
"Iskandar Malaysia is progressing well and the development taking place is the economic region is the testament that it is moving in the right direction,'' said Hoe.
Hoe said it was only logical for Singaporean manufacturing companies planning to relocate their operations elsewhere to choose Iskandar Malaysia due to its close proximity with the republic.
"They can have the best of both worlds Singapore and Johor Baru just less than two kilometres away and improvement in connectivity and accessibility will benefit both countries,'' she added.
The Johor Causeway, which is about 1.06km was completed in 1932 and links Johor Baru to Woodlands on the other side of the Straits of Johor.
About 100,000 vehicles use it daily.
Johor and Singapore are also connected via the Second Link, a 1.9km dual three-lane carriageway linking Tanjung Kupang in Gelang Patah to Tuas in Singapore.