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

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 out at Linkedin

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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)

Impact on economic activities and property

The termination of HSR plan would have a greater impact on the development within Iskandar Puteri area. Medini Iskandar is poised to be the second CBD of Johor Bahru is located in Iskandar Puteri. The state government will now need to re-think on a new model to attract business activities and connectivity in the area. Already struggled with oversupply and lack of advertisement, Iskandar Puteri should not be a ghost town with a city-standing status.

Township developments such as Puteri Harbour, Medini and Gerbang Nusajaya will struggle to find buyers and investors. Newly-launched properties are estimated at RM600,000 to RM1 million which is not average property prices for Johorean due to its proximity to the future HSR station. The properties in Iskandar Puteri are mainly targeted to the Malaysian semi-professional to professionals or Singaporeans. This objective will probably go down the drain. The same thing will bound to happen to Bandar Universiti Pagoh and Pura Kencana township. Both are within the vicinity of the proposed Muar and Batu Pahat stations. The property developers and banks have to come out with new incentives such as Rent-To-Own, 12-months free installment or lower deposit fees to cater to domestic buyers.

Better plan for Johor and Iskandar Malaysia?

With the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project on the way and expected to commence in 2027, Johoreans could rely on this mode of transportation in the future. Even without the HSR, the RTS project could facilitate people movement and boost economic activities between Malaysia and Singapore. Although the termination of HSR would negatively impact several areas in Johor, Johor Bahru could remain as the largest contributor to the economy in Johor.

The Gemas-JB Sentral double tracking railway project is also something to be excited about. The construction is in steady phase and is scheduled for completion by late 2022. This project could be the next big thing in terms of KL-JB connectivity. The project will reduce the time travel from 7 hours to 3.5 hours. This project may replace the grief over HSR.

Budget 2021 could also be used as the catalyst to improve the connectivity in Johor especially in Iskandar region with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The lead operator and contractor have been appointed and therefore, this project should not be a white elephant. BRT system would greatly benefit Johoreans who wish to commute by public transportation. Once operational in 2023 – 2024, this project will be the backbone and success story of Iskandar Malaysia.

Conclusion

The termination of HSR is causing a huge loss to Malaysia especially Johor due to its proximity and reliance towards Singapore. The truth hurts but Johor should take this opportunity to adjust on new models and incentives to boost domestic connectivity and economy instead. This HSR termination should not hinder Johor to become the second biggest economic powerhouse after Klang Valley.

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