In light of the 31 December deadline for the second and final extension of the suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Project, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had a discussion on the bilateral project via video conference call on Wednesday (2 Dec).
According to a joint statement from both countries’ leaders, both Prime Ministers took stock of the progress of discussions, and gained a good understanding of Malaysia’s and Singapore’s respective positions.
“Both sides will announce further details on the HSR Project through a Joint Statement in due course,” the statement read.
“Both Prime Ministers also reaffirmed the strong bilateral relations between the two countries covering many areas of cooperation and the sincere desire to further strengthen these relations for mutual benefit,” it added.
Prior to this, Malaysia and Singapore had reached an agreement in September 2018 to delay the project which Malaysia wanted to cancel due to the high cost.
As the two-year deadline approaches, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) in May this year had confirmed that the HSR project will be deferred for another seven months for Malaysia to deliberate on proposed changes to the commercial and technical aspects of the project.
“We confirm that the Government of Malaysia has informed Singapore that it would like to propose some changes to the High Speed Rail (HSR) Project, and has requested a seven-month extension to allow both sides to discuss Malaysia’s proposal,” said MOT in a statement on 31 May.
Following this, it was reported last week that Malaysia has proposed several changes to the infrastructure project, according to a spokesperson from MOT.
The MOT spokesperson told The Straits Times (ST) 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 HSR project was announced in 2010, with an estimated rail distance coverage of 350 kilometres between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It will also minimise travel time to only 90 minutes as opposed to 11 hours by regular train.