Friday, February 12, 2021

Malaysia to call off Singapore-KL high-speed rail as clock ticks?

Malaysia is said to have its own plans for the project which would benefit the country in the long run, even if compensation must be paid to Singapore.

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Malaysia is unlikely to restart the stalled high-speed rail (HSR) project to connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, with the two-year suspension period set to expire at midnight today, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

A source familiar with negotiations between the two countries said Malaysia had its own plan for the HSR, a move which would almost certainly upset its southern neighbour.

“It would be one that benefits Malaysia more in the long run, even if we have to pay compensation,” the source said.

In May, both countries reached an agreement to defer construction of the 350km project until the end of 2020, following a request from Putrajaya.

Malaysia made the request to study the implication of the project on the economy.

The project, which was to take off in 2026, was first postponed four months after the fall of the Barisan Nasional government in 2018, as the incoming Pakatan Harapan government undertook a review of several large-scale projects over financial concerns.

The move drew strong criticism from Najib Razak, who had promoted the HSR as beneficial to Malaysia.

But critics of the project, who included former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, pointed out that the HSR would benefit Singapore more.

It is understood that the two-year suspension of the project would mean Malaysia paying some RM45 million in compensation to Singapore.

But the same source told MalaysiaNow that the new version of the HSR would connect to strategic domestic destinations which would benefit Malaysia.

“I doubt that Singapore would agree to that because it could adversely affect its airport,” the source said, referring to Singapore’s Changi airport which acts as one of the main hubs in the Asia Pacific.

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