(Channel News Asia) Forget about the hour-long Causeway jams. In three years, Singaporeans may be able to take a train and zip across from Woodlands to Johor in less than three minutes.
SMRT and a Johor construction company are in talks to erect 3-4 km-long monorail track linking Singapore's MRT stations at Woodlands or Kranji to Johor Baru's new RM3 billion monorail system.
If the plan goes through, the monorail - for which construction is scheduled to begin next year - will be elevated across the Johor Straits and curve into the Kranji area.
A deal between SMRT Corporation and Johor transport construction company Jalur Mudra Sdn Bhd (JM) - which will build the Johor monorail - could be clinched within the "next couple of months", JM's executive director Nebojsa Novakovic told TODAY.
An SMRT spokesperson added: "We are open to various forms of partnership and are waiting for details regarding the project from Jalur Mudra Sdn Bhd for our consideration."
Among the issues that need to be ironed out will be the customs and immigrations procedures - all-seater trains have been suggested to simplify matters - as well as the structure of the deal itself.
SMRT has already submitted a letter of intent to JM, indicating that it is keen to be part of the project.
There have been no political roadblocks so far. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had recently remarked on the "mixed signals" coming out of Johor over Singapore's participation in its mega development project.
"JM has informed the Johor State Government of SMRT's proposal and there has been no objection so far," said Mr Novakovic.
Nor will the past disputes between Singapore and Malaysia over the Causeway and a proposed bridge stand in the way, he indicated.
According to sources, SMRT has offered to take up an equity stake of up to 45 per cent in the project. However, they say the Johor State Government is likely to cap SMRT's stake at 15 per cent.
The project will be 30% owned by the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB), which will provide the land and right of way, but not money, said Mr Novakovic.
To make things simpler, this initiative will be privately funded.
"It has to be financially viable as it is politically doable. This fits very nicely into the master plan of SMRT and JM. There is no government funding from either side. So far there has been no stumbling blocks," said Mr Novakovic.
Another possibility is for JM to engage SMRT as a technology partner or business consultant.
"It's most likely to be all of the above options," said Mr Novakovic.
JM is now waiting to sign official concession agreements, after which it will try to hammer out its deal with SMRT, subject to approval from authorities.
Analysts think it's a lucrative project.
"This will be a profitable line because of the traffic. Everyday, you have 50,000 people commuting across the Causeway. With the monorail, even more people will cross the Causeway during the weekends," said a transport analyst at a foreign bank. - TODAY/dt
FACTS about the Johor Baru Monorail:
The Johor Baru monorail, which travels at a speed of 100km per hour is faster than Singapore's MRT and will be based on the "maglev" or magnetic levitation technology. In this, magnetic forces lift, propel and guide trains over an elevated guideway.
The monorail will initially serve a 13.5km stretch from the state capital to AEON Tebrau City in the proposed logistics hub. Another 50km of railway lines will be added subsequently to serve other parts of the state. The Singapore link will be about 3km-to-4km long.
tags : channel news asia cna singapore woodlands johor bahru jb malaysia smart train maglev