Dr Mahathir plans to postpone HSR initiative in favour of improving Malaysia’s railway system

Malaysia has decided to keep their plans of a high-speed rail (HSR) service on hold, as reported by The Star Online on Wednesday (17 April).

Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the reason for this is so that the government can focus on improving the existing railway system in the country instead.

He also explained that there was no urgency for the HSR plan because it “is not necessary for now, especially when it is only within Singapore and Kuala Lumpur”, and the current travel time does not exceed six hours.

“So we will not build the HSR just yet. But we will want to improve the quality and the services of our existing railway system. That can be done and has been done to some extent by double tracking and electrification,” he said in response to a question at a dialogue with the Malaysian Rail Industry Corporation (Maric) yesterday.

Future plans of HSR service from Johor Baru to Penang and to the Malaysia-Thailand border are still in consideration and would only be executed if deemed necessary, he added.

When asked by reporters later on if Singapore agreed to have the HSR service up to the Thai border, Dr Mahathir replied that the republic only contemplated having it to Kuala Lumpur.

The HSR initiative was set up by the previous administration to introduce a 90-minute train journey bet­ween Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. However, the Pakatan Harapan government decided to suspend the project for two years until May 2020 and had reimbursed Singapore RM46mil (S$15mil).

Presently, the government plans to improve the quality of the railway system in order to increase the speed of time travel by train. “Our investment, for now, will go towards upgrading the railway system through electrification and double tracking right from the Thai border to Johor Baru,” he said.

The railway line between Padang Besar in Perlis and Gemas in Negri Sembilan is now fully electrified and double-tracked. Once the Gemas-Johor Baru Electrified Double-Track Project (EDTP) is completed in 2021, the main trunk line on the West Coast railway line will be an electrified double track system.

The East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) project has been resumed, linking Port Klang in Selangor to Kota Baru in Kelantan. The electrified double track network will be set for completion in 2026.

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