By Khalil Adis
Despite previous setbacks, the planned Woodlands-Johor Bahru RTS-MRT link is expected to reignite the local residential market
Developers and analysts are optimistic that the proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS)-Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) linking Malaysia’s Johor Bahru (JB) to Woodlands, Singapore will have a positive impact on property values, enhance liveability around the transport hubs and reduce the notorious congestion along the Woodlands-Johor causeway.
“The opening of any MRT station will have a 5 to 10 percent value increase over the longer term,” said Donald Han, managing director of property firm Chesterton Singapore.
“The lure of being just a doorstep or an MRT station away from Johor Bahru is also a tremendous plus, without having to negotiate perpetual causeway traffic jams especially on weekends.”
He added that the Woodlands North MRT station will be located next to a proposed Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex and is within System (RTS)–Mass Rapid and the Woodlands Regional Centre, adjoining several offices and business parks to Woodlands, Singapore
Plans for a cross-border link have been on the table since the 80s, but have to date fallen to the wayside as a result of several bilateral disagreements.
The project was, however, revived in May 2010 and both Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak agreed to jointly develop an RTS Link.
“I think we will see more Singaporeans and Malaysians who are Singapore Permanent Residents buying second homes in JB city centre to take advantage of the RTS and accessibility to Singapore,” said Han.”The RTS will benefit JB city centre immensely. Singaporeans can now take advantage of ‘lower cost of living’ and to an extent having better lifestyle such as larger apartments with condo facilities at a price of an HDB flat.”
Meanwhile, developers believe the RTS station in Johor Bahru will have a positive impact on the overall development of the Malaysian state.
“The Malaysia government’s decision will likely add value to our development, as it will further improve the commuting convenience for our residents, especially for those lacking their own transport and need to travel between Johor Bahru and Singapore frequently,” said Cindi Sim, Group Managing Director of MB Builders Sdn Bhd.
Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Master Plan 2013, the Singapore government has put in place a decentralisation strategy to develop the Woodlands Regional Centre into a key business hub.
It will serve as a northern gateway to Iskandar Malaysia over the next decade and a half, with direct links to the Thomson Line and to Iskandar Malaysia.
The Land Transportation Authority (LTA) said the RTS would have co-located CIQ facilities on both sides, allowing commuters to clear immigration at a single location for each way of travel.
Four potential stations have been identified: Tanjung Puteri, JB Sentral 1, JB Sentral 2, and Bukit Chagar as the terminating station.
“Consequently, we expect that the RTS project will increase the capital appreciation and potential rental yield of TriTower Residence,” said Sim, whose firm’s TriTower Residence development is located just next to the planned RTS station in Bukit Chagar. “We expect the properties in Bukit Chagar will increase in value due to the RTS project as well as the new Komtar JBCC shopping centre.”
According to Sim, it would be more valuable to stay near to the transit stations following the rise in petrol prices and the recent toll hikes on both sides of the causeway.
Indeed, Johor Bahru is undergoing major transformations, boosted by MYR1.8 billion (USD549 million)worth of committed funds from Malaysia’s federal government. Ambitious projects in the pipeline include the rehabilitation of Sungei Segget, the revival of the city centre, a new entry gateway near the causeway, and a mixed-use development called Vantage Bay.
Likewise, buyers are anticipating new developments to be launched in the area that will benefit from the reduced travel time created by the RTS.
“The RTS will impact my investment decisions, but only within Johor Bahru or Zone A of Iskandar Malaysia,” said William Liong, a homeowner in Iskandar Malaysia. “Nevertheless, I would still be interested in Zone B, Nusajaya, as this area is not too dependent on the RTS. In Nusajaya, the High Speed Rail project and other catalysts wdriving the demand pattern.
Although the announcement of the RTS in Bukit Chagar has been much anticipated by market observers, officials from Malaysia and Singapore are still awaiting confirmation from either side in order to move on to the next phase of the project and approve the specific train station locations.
Despite the delays, however, they remain optimistic about the overall plan, and believe the crosslink will be mutually beneficial for both Singapore and Malaysia, especially in the manufacturing sector, which normally depends on cheaper workforce from Malaysia.
“Malaysian workers may rent apartments within JB City Centre and commute daily via RTS/MRT to Woodlands,” according to Chesterton Singapore’s Han. “It could be a win-win for both JB and Woodlands each holding their own attractive grounds co- existing in unison.”