After much deliberation, the contentious issue of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project has been resolved as both parties have formally agreed to postpone the construction for two years until May 2020. Malaysia has also agreed to bearing the agreed costs of suspending the project.
Both the countries signed the documents on the new understanding at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya today. Singapore was represented by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan while Malaysia was represented by its Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali.
During the signing ceremony, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and his Malaysian counterpart Wan Azizah Wan Ismail were also present.
According to the new agreement, the express service of the HSR is expected to start by January 1, 2031 instead of December 31, 2026.
In addition to this, Malaysia will also have to pay abortive costs amounting to about SGD15 million before the end of January 2019 for suspending the project.
However, if Malaysia fails to start the project by May 31, 2020, it will also shoulder the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the HSR Bilateral Agreement.
The High-Speed Rail project is a 350km line that would have slashed rail travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes from about four hours by car.
After the signing ceremony, Azmin said, “We have all worked tirelessly in order to bring about a resolution that is mutually beneficial. Without doubt, this agreement would not have happened if not for our strong commitment to bilateral cooperation between our two countries.”
“I am confident that this spirit will see us through the final fruition of the Kuala-Lumpur Singapore High-Speed Rail project,” he added.
“Many Singaporeans had been looking forward to the realisation of this project and we remain committed to this project. I understand why Malaysia had to suspend the development of the HSR,” said Khaw while talking with the media persons.
Notably, HSR was among the several projects approved by the previous Malaysian government that have come under review following the Pakatan Harapan's historic victory in the May general election.
Shortly after the election, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that HSR project would be scrapped entirely. However, he later changed stance and said that the project would be deferred instead.