Urban transport by metro just got another upgrade in Singapore, which is, yet again, proving to be way ahead of the curve. Last week, the city-state signed a memorandum of understanding with neighboring Malaysia to build a bi-national metro line that connects the two nations in another move that will change international transport as we know it.

The agreement was signed on January 16th by officials from Singapore and Malaysia, where officials gave details about the new bi-national metro line that will run from Bukhit Chagar in Johor Bahru, Malaysia to the North Woodlands station in Singapore. The metro will run from Bukhit Chagar over a strait on a 25-meter (82-foot) bridge and into a tunnel before reaching a connecting line that will be constructed to transport passengers into Singapore. The agreement also contains details about technical, safety and security requirements, commercial, financing, procurement, and regulatory frameworks, as well as the border arrangements.

bi-national metro

A map pointing to the route the metro will take to connect the two countries. (Courtesy of Metro Rail)

The two countries have chosen infrastructural companies – Prasana in Malaysia and the Land Transport Authority in Singapore – to take up the responsibility of funding the building, and maintaining the bi-nationalmetro’s infrastructure and stations within their respective national borders. Once the metro is up and running, the line will transport up to 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction, which is a giant step up from the 300-person capacity of the shuttle service that currently transports passengers between the two nations.

The two nations have set a timeline for the construction of the bi-national metro project, the first milestone of which will be on June 30th when a joint venture between Singapore and Malaysia will be established. By September 30th of this year, a 30-year concession will be signed between the two nations that will define the project’s design, financing, and maintenance.

The biggest question regarding the project goes back to the customs and immigration processes when the train crosses the border. Unlike the tram service that connects cities in France, Germany and Switzerland, for example, Singapore and Malaysia do not have a travel-free agreement similar to that of the Schengen Zone in place. The agreement signed last week, however, has highlighted that customs and immigration points will be located on both ends of the metro line.

Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien, told local media: “‘[The metro] is an ambitious project, it is quite complicated because it has to start above ground, cross the water, go underground, and then there is a [border control] underground that must connect, then the people can come out and go onto the Singapore MRT trains.”

Once the metro opens to the public in 2024, the shuttle that is currently in service will be discontinued within six months.