Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the signing of the bilateral agreement for the high-speed rail (HSR) project in Kuala Lumpur will be held next week, amid the call from Malaysian opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan to postpone the signing.
Mr Najib was quoted by local media, Utusan Online, on Monday (6 December), saying, “We will sign the HSR project agreement next week in KL.”
Mr Najib told reporters at a press conference after officiating the 10th anniversary of the Iskandar Malaysia development in Johor that Singapore had requested a bit more time as it needed the President’s approval before inking the pact.
Local agency Bernama wrote that Mr Najib said, “Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called me and asked for a little bit of time to brief their President.”
“We will be signing the agreement next week. (PM Lee) is coming to Kuala Lumpur,” he said.
Initially, the signing was to be held on 5 December at the Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat in Johor Bahru before being postponed.
Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan has announced on 1 December that an agreement will be signed by the end of the year, most likely around 21 December.
In a statement, Mr Abdul said that he had already met the Singapore’s Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan on Tuesday (29 November) to discuss the remaining details of the agreement. It said that both had agreed to “fine-tune some details in the bilateral agreement”.
The statement said, “Both sides are now taking the necessary follow-up action to comply with their respective internal procedures and legal requirements for the signing of this agreement.”
Mr Abdul also said, “All other issues have been ironed out.”
While, in response to media queries, Mr Khaw said, “There has been excellent progress on negotiations for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail Bilateral Agreement.”
He also stated that both sides are finalising the text of the agreement and “look forward to its signing at the coming Leaders’ Retreat soon.”
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the High-Speed Railway project that will link Singapore and Malaysia was signed on 19 July by representatives from the two neighbouring countries. The signing ceremony was witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.
Singapore Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan along with Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Abdul Rahman Dahlan signed the agreement.
However, Malaysian opposition had issued a statement which was released on Tuesday (6 December). Members of Parliament from Pakatan Harapan said they want Malaysia to be open about the income Malaysia will derive from this project and how the cost of construction will be borne by both nations.
The statement wrote, “The project involves huge amounts of the country’s finances and a lot of citizens’ land is expected to be taken by the government to construct the HSR. Therefore, the government should not keep information about this project secret like a Third World country.”
The 350 km-long HSR line will cut off the travel time from Malaysia to Singapore from 4 hours drive to just 90 minutes in a train travel. It will travel at a top speed of 300km/hour.
The terminus in Malaysia will be at Bandar Malaysia, while the one in Singapore will be at Jurong East. And Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri and Putrajaya were said to be the transit stops.
Besides the non-stop Singapore-KL express service and the domestic service within Malaysia, shuttle service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri in Johor will be available.
Construction is expected to start in 2018 and targeted to be up and running by around 2026.