Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has softened his earlier intention to cancel the proposed high-speed rail (HSR) project entirely.
The project was merely postponed, with the reason being it would cost an exorbitant amount of RM110 billion (S$37 billion), Mahathir said.
“We cannot say we will never have high-speed rail in Malaysia. What we can do is we can postpone the project because it is far too costly at this moment,” he said in an interview with Japanese media published in the Asian Nikkei Review on June 11, 2018.
Last month, the premier said 350km rail project had to be called off as it did not benefit the country, according to reports. The government was also on a mission to cut spending and investment to “avoid being declared bankrupt”, after it was revealed that the country's debt has spiralled to more than RM1.09 trillion.
Mahathir had initially emphasised that the decision was final. But days later, he appeared to soften his stance and said he will hear Singapore out if the other party requests to continue the project.
“We will listen to them. They are our good partners,” he had said on May 30. Mahathir also added that he was agreeable to revisiting the HSR and other mega projects once Malaysia's finances improve.
To be completed in 2026, the project was inked under former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2016. If completed, the HSR would cut travelling time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore from about four hours by car, to 90 minutes.