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High Speed Rail project to go on without Singapore?

Song Hong

Jan 4, 2020
Viet Nam
The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project is expected to resume without Singapore’s participation, according to sources.

The new plan was for the line to end in Johor Bahru instead of Singapore, the sources said.

Last May, Singapore agreed to a Malaysian request to postpone the start of the project to the end of this year to allow for discussions on changes that Putrajaya had in mind.

Two well-placed sources have now told FMT that the changes included continuing the project without Singapore.

They said Putrajaya has informed its Singapore counterpart of the change in plans.

This means that the line will end in Johor Bahru instead of connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

The two sources FMT spoke to were critical of Putrajaya’s latest decision, with one saying it would bring into question the sustainability of the megaproject.

“The HSR was touted as a game changer as it would ensure seamless travel between KL and Singapore in just 90 minutes,” he said. “This is one of the busiest air routes in the world. So there is demand for the rail link.

“KL and Johor Bahru are already served by domestic flights and the North-South Expressway.”

He also referred to Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd’s Electric Train Service project, which will see the entire west coast connected by rail in 2022. This line will connect KL Sentral to JB Sentral with trains travelling up to 160km per hour.

“Once both projects are complete, you will have two rail lines connecting KL to JB. This is a redundancy.”

The other source said axing Singapore from the project could complicate relations between the two countries. He noted that Singapore had already incurred expenses and had said it would demand compensation from Malaysia.

“Singapore made its stand on this very clear when the Pakatan Harapan administration mulled its cancellation,” he said. “It will exercise its right to compensation.

“This could end up being very costly for taxpayers.”

He said it had been reported that Singapore would seek about SG$250 million (RM760 million) in compensation.

When contacted by FMT, the High Commission of Singapore said it continued to believe that the HSR project would benefit both countries and reiterated its commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the bilateral agreement.

It added that the project’s construction had been suspended twice at Malaysia’s request, with the final extension ending at the end of the year.

“Singapore and Malaysia signed the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore HSR bilateral agreement in December 2016. This is a legally binding international agreement which remains in force today.

“During the suspension period, Malaysia proposed some changes to the HSR project and we have been discussing them in good faith with Malaysia.

“We will make our best efforts to conclude discussions with Malaysia by Dec 31. However, if by Dec 31 Malaysia does not proceed with the HSR Project, under our agreements with Malaysia, Malaysia will bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the HSR bilateral agreement,” it said.


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