As the deadline for bilateral talks on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) Project approaches, Malaysia has proposed several changes to the infrastructure project, according to a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT).
The MOT spokesperson told The Straits Times in response to queries that Singapore “remains fully committed to fulfilling our obligations under the HSR Bilateral Agreement”.
“We will make our best efforts to conclude discussions with Malaysia by Dec 31, 2020,” the spokesperson added, noting that Malaysia “will bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the HSR Bilateral Agreement” should Malaysia decide to call off the project.
The spokesman’s statement came following a report by Malaysian media outlet Free Malaysia Today (FMT), in which sources said that among changes Malaysia intends to put forth include continuing the project without Singapore.
This would mean that the HSR line will end in Johor Bahru instead of connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
The sources who spoke to FMT criticised the plan, stating that having another train line that connects Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru would be redundant.
Currently, the ongoing Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd’s Electric Train Service project will see KL’s public transport hub KL Sentral connect to JB Sentral, with trains travelling up to 160km per hour.
The HSR, on the other hand, would be “a game-changer as it would ensure seamless travel between KL and Singapore in just 90 minutes”, compared to 11 hours by regular train.
The other source warned that removing Singapore from the HSR project could result in the straining of relations between the republic and Malaysia.
“Singapore made its stand on this very clear when the Pakatan Harapan administration mulled its cancellation,” he told FMT.
Singapore exercising its right to compensation, he added, “could end up being very costly for taxpayers”.
The compensation amount may total up to S$250 million (RM760 million).
The HSR project was announced in 2010, with an estimated rail distance coverage of 350 kilometres between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.