Flashback to eight years ago on 19th February 2013, where Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former Malaysian PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak agreed to build a high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore after meeting at the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in Singapore.
Fast-forward to 28th May 2018, where former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose coalition defeated Najib in the May elections, said, “Malaysia has made a final decision to drop plans for the HSR as it would cost Malaysia RM110 billion (S$36.2 billion) and will not earn it a single cent”. However, he then backtrack his words by saying it will be temporarily shelved due to the high costs involved.
On 26th November 2020, Malaysia had proposed changes to the HSR in view of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, and by 1st January 2021, the HSR project was terminated, after both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia by the deadline of 31st December 2020.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, in a separate statement, said Malaysia has to compensate Singapore for costs already incurred, in accordance with the HSR agreement. Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed from the Prime Minister’s department has said that Malaysia will honour its obligations under the Bilateral Agreement. Both countries will determine the amount of compensation.
What comes next?
There is a possibility that the said project may still continue but leaving Singapore out of the picture and that the HSR line will end in Johor.
Meanwhile, Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Ir. Haji Hasni Mohammad is optimistic the project will continue even though it won’t involve Singapore. During a press conference at Johor United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) liaison committee office, Hasni was quoted saying, “Johor will be able to benefit greatly from the HSR’s continuation because a large part of the project involved the state – a route of more than 300km, with Johor having most of the lines and stations.”
Currently, there are two rail projects in Johor, namely the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System project which is going to be a game-changer in terms of curbing traffic between the state and Singapore which sees high volumes of commuters daily, and the Gemas-Johor Bahru double-tracking project.
What do you think of this cancelled project? Was it a wise move to exclude Singapore and will be it economically viable in the long run?
*For further views on the High Speed Rail project, read https://issuu.com/waveslifestyle/docs/issue_35_the_iskandarian_july2015_w – The Train to Brain Drain?