A few years back, in my geographer days, I wrote about the surface links between Singapore and Malaysia. These are both international transport and urban transport at the same time. After a long saga, the two countries have finally reached an agreement on several important cross-border transport issues.
At the time I studied this about 5 years ago, it was an intriguing tale and a case of remarkably problematic cross-border cooperation. I am glad that win-win resolutions look like emerging.
My 2006 paper on this (pdf; publisher site) discussed three main aspects and the latest announcement relates to all three (as well as several other issues, such as cross-border taxis, buses and revived plans for a cross-border mass transit system to connect with Singapore's MRT).
- The big news is the resolution of the dispute over land in Singapore leased to Malayan Railways on a 999 year lease for its rail line running south from Johor Baru across the causeway to Tanjung Pagar next to Singapore's CBD. This corridor will apparently now revert to Singapore government control. Adjacent significant land plots or land of equivalent value will be transferred to a joint venture by sovereign wealth funds from both countries for development.
- The announcement also includes plans to reduce the tolls on the Second Road Link at Tuas, which has always had rather low traffic due to its high tolls. These arose from a lack of cooperation and compromise between the two countries in the crucial early days of the bridge.
- The third case was the Mahathir proposal to replace the old causeway with a bridge. When Singapore failed to agree, this morphed into his plan for a 'crooked half bridge' or so-called 'scenic bridge' to be built unilaterally by Malaysia. This was dropped by Mahathir's successor as Malaysian PM, Abdullah Badawi, to Dr M's great annoyance. The latest agreement is to move the terminus station to Woodlands, just over the straits on the Singapore side. This suggests no bridge to replace the causeway in the short term but does not necessarily rule it out in the long run.
So will Singapore seize the opportunity to create a new Park Connector along the Malayan Railways corridor? There is no news on that for now.
The KTM corridor would make a wonderful "rails to trails" type project. It would be tragic not to preserve this right-of-way for non-motorised transport. Such a park connector could provide a direct, flat, bicycle route free of road-crossings all the way to the edge of the financial district at Tanjung Pagar from Woodlands via Upper Bukit Timah, Ghim Moh/Holland Village, Biopolis and Queenstown. Right now, the PCN network is rather disjointed (see the map below).
View NParks Park Connectors, Singapore in a larger map
[Update: I made some small corrections to some details in this post 9 hours after first posting.]