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7 Ways The Johor Bahru–Singapore Rail Transit System (RTS) Benefit Singapore’s Economy And People


The Johor Bahru–Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link Project is a joint venture project undertaken by SMRT Corporation and Prasarana Malayasia to build a 4km cross-border link between Singapore – Woodlands North MRT station and Malaysia – Bukit Chagar, using a Light Rapid Transit System.

Expected to be completed by end 2026, the operational rail link will facilitate a daily crossing of about 300,000 people or up to 10,000 passengers per hour. Here’s how this significant, historic project will benefit Singaporeans, companies in Singapore, and Singapore’s economy at large.

#1 Building And Operation Of The RTS Link Create Jobs In The Rail Industry

The initial plan for the RTS Link was to leverage on the same trains and rail systems as the Thomson – East Coast MRT Line (TEL). Furthermore, it was expected that the RTS Link will use the existing TEL Mandai Depot, thereby creating greater economies of scale in terms maintenance and servicing works, resulting in lower operational costs. It was further expected to benefit the local (Singapore) economy with more job creation in the Rail industry.

However, those plans have been changed to accommodate calls from Malaysia to lower the project costs. The latest agreement involves in using a similar LRT system used in the Ampang Line in Klang Valley – Johor Bahru, Malaysia. According to Mr Wee Ka Siong, Malaysia’sTransport Minister confirmed that a new depot will be built in Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru and expects this project to add around 1,000 jobs to their local economy.

The recent change of plans has unfortunately been to the detriment of Singapore and Singaporeans.  However, a happy medium approach was taken by the government to start off the long-awaited project to ease the congestion problems at the causeway, which is the World’s busiest border crossing. Therefore, we can only see it as a mixed blessing for Singapore and Singaporeans.

#2 Larger Pool Of Labour In Johor Bahru Able To Commute Efficiently

According to The Star, there are over 300,000 Malaysians commuting daily for work in Singapore. Most of them are currently traveling by chartered buses or private motor vehicles. Once the RTS Link is operational, it is expected to ease traffic congestion as more of these workers will use the RTS Link to cross the borders quickly and conveniently.

With the development of the Northern Gateway and the third Regional Centre in Woodlands, more jobs are expected to be created in Woodlands as it transforms as the largest economic hub in Singapore’s North region. This bodes well for local Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) looking to add to their labour force. As the journey between the two countries are made more convenient through the RTS Link, more Malaysians will look for employment in Singapore.

This will also benefit the local economy as businesses will be able to fill up roles that Singaporeans are not willing to perform. Moreover, it could also translate to higher take up rates of industrial and commercial spaces by businesses including office buildings such as Woods Square.

As more people congregate in Woodlands for work, play and study, it will make Woodlands and the North Region a thriving commercial and community node and make the once sleepy town a bustling destination.

#3 Potential Boost In Rental Demand For Estates Around The RTS Link

Consequently, with more foreigners employed in Singapore, there will be a greater demand for property rentals.  The demand could come from Malaysians from the further regions, as they seek accommodation whilst working in Singapore.

The median HDB property rentals in Woodlands has seen a steady decline across the board over the past 5 years. This trend could reverse, if Malaysians see the RTS Link project as raising the attractiveness of working in Singapore.

Source: HDB

#4 Increased Accessibility To Overseas Properties

Many Singaporeans from 2010 to 2013, bought into the hype of the Iskandar Development Region and bought properties for investment, as a holiday home or even as a retirement home for the future. There are also a few Singaporeans who have settled down in Johor and commute daily to Singapore for Work and Study.

The RTS Link will be seen as a major boost for these property owners, whom can now expect a quicker and easier travelling journey. We might also see a pick up in the demand for the many recently completed condominiums around the Sultan Iskandar CIQ.

#5 A Boost For Singapore Tourism And Singapore Tourists

The RTS Link will also be a boon for Singapore’s tourism sector. With the upcoming major development of the Mandai Nature precinct, tourists from Malaysia would be able to visit the Mandai’s 5-in-1 park which encompasses the Mandai Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari, Bird Park a public reservoir nature trail. With the RTS Link and TEL, tourists from Johor will have a seamless and affordable means of transportation to these attractions. Other attractions that could interest Malaysian tourists, include the iconic and historical Haw Par Villa Park and Resorts World Sentosa. All these attractions can be visited easily using our well-connected rail transportation.

Johor has the accolade as the Malaysian state with the most theme parks with over 9 theme parks, such as LEGOLAND Malaysia, Thomas Town and Angry Birds Activity Park, among others. This bodes well for Singaporeans looking for a quick getaway or travel destination over the school holidays. Instead of being cramped up in a car for hours waiting to cross the causeway, it will become more convenient for Singaporeans to make short getaway trips once the RTS Link becomes operational.

#6 Welcome Development For Singapore’ Education Sector

The RTS Link project could also see a pick up in the demand for places in our local Primary and Secondary school institutions, especially those in Woodlands and tertiary institutions like Republic Polytechnic. Though, MOE has declined to reveal the number of Malaysian students enrolled in Singapore schools, an article from the Malay Mail had estimated the number to be in the region of 15,000. These students whom have to wake up in the wee hours of the morning and make the journey across through mostly chartered buses, will now have an alternative form of reliable transport, making the journey less arduous of an effort.

Moreover, for the Singaporean students looking to enrol in higher learning institutions in the fields of Medicine, Mechanical Engineering, Business and Maritime Engineering could consider the many reputable universities that have opened affiliated branches in the Educity Iskandar of Johor. With the schedule operation of the RTS Link, parents and students could feel at ease, knowing they could cross the borders quickly, without having to face the prospect of sitting in a two hour or more, long traffic jam.

#7 Easier Access For Patients Seeking Medical Treatment In Singapore

Singapore is renowned in the ASEAN region for having some of the best medical facilities and professionals. Some of the VIP clients include, the Brunei and Johor Royal families and other notable political office holders and businessmen. Even the current PM of Malaysia, Mr Muhyiddin Yassin came to Singapore in 2018 for a month-long treatment for his pancreatic tumour.

With the development of the RTS Link, medical tourists from Malaysia, can transfer to the Woodlands MRT station – along the North-South Line and head down to any of the public or private specialist clinics or hospitals at the Health City Novena, within a 35-minute journey. With such hassle-free commute for top quality healthcare services, more patients from Malaysia would be willing to seek consultation or treatment in Singapore.

On the flipside, Singaporeans heading to Johor for cheaper basic healthcare services like medical check-ups, dental services or even to Fertility clinics, would find the scheduled train departures of the RTS Link, beneficial to plan for their appointments.

A Milestone Reached, But Many More To Go

Even though we recounted the many mutual benefits of the project to both countries, we still need to keep a close eye on the project. As we’ve seen previously, things can be subject to change, and there is still a degree of risk that the project might not be completed as per the schedule. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.