HSR Termination: Johor’s Connectivity and Economic Perspective – Part One

Wahab Jumrah is currently an Assistant Manager within the Legal and Corporate Governance Department at Vistra Malaysia. He was a legal practitioner in Raja, Darryl & Loh before moving to Johor to work as an in-house counsel. He can be reached at Linkedin – Wahab Jumrah

An artist’s impression of the High Speed Rail station in Batu Pahat, Johor for the terminated project (Photo courtesy EDELMAN vis The Straits Times)


It was July 2016 when Malaysia and Singapore witnessed the MOU to build an ambitious project: KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). The project was supposed to reduce the time travel from 4 hours to only 90 minutes with hassle-free immigration checkpoint. A follow up agreement was signed by both governments reflecting a strong desire to implement the project by the end of 2016. 2017 marks the new chapter for both governments when Singapore announced SG HSR a wholly owned subsidiary company while Malaysia formed MyHSR to jointly appoint an international operator for the project through an open international tender.

The HSR plan was a hit that investors and buyers snapped several empty lands within the vicinity of the proposed HSR stops namely Bandar Malaysia, Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat, Iskandar Puteri and finally Singapore. The excitement was shared by Malaysian prominent developers such as UEM, Genting and Sime Darby to develop self-sustaining townships around the area. In the meantime, Singapore acquired Raffles Country Club and Jurong Country Club to house the HSR terminus and propose a second CDB district in Jurong Lake District. The initial operation of HSR was expected to start by 31st December 2016.

2018 sees the project in a limbo when Singapore and Malaysia signed a new agreement to postpone the construction of the project at the end of May 2020. By early 2020, the “Sheraton Move” oversaw the ousting of the Malaysian coalition government and a new prime minister was appointed. The unprecedented political crises consented Malaysia and Singapore to defer the project until the end of 2020. On 1st Jan 2021, Malaysia and Singapore announced that the project would be discontinued after the agreement lapsed on 31st December 2020.

Huge loss for Johor’s connectivity

Surely the terminated HSR project was not well-received by Johoreans. The entire project was supposed to house 3 well-designed stations in Johor alone, by connecting Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri before proceeding to Singapore. The initial plan was that there will be a shuttle service from Iskandar Puteri to Singapore with its own immigration checkpoint. With thousands of Johoreans working in Singapore, this would hamper the people’s movement to and fro Singapore by relying on current state of commuting – personal vehicle or public transportation. While public transportation in Johor is improving nowadays, the HSR project was supposed to be a relief especially to the blue-collared workers who commute every day to Singapore.


**The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the editorial board