SINGAPORE, June 1 — Singapore has agreed to Malaysia’s request for a seven-month extension to the High Speed Rail (HSR) project suspension.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a Facebook post yesterday that Malaysian Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has written to him to request an extension of seven months to discuss Malaysia’s proposed changes to the project.
“As any project change requires our agreement, the extended suspension will allow both countries to assess the changes that Malaysia has in mind,” said Khaw. “In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, we have agreed to a final extension of the suspension period to December 31, 2020.”
Khaw said this should provide “sufficient time” for Malaysia to clarify its proposal and for both sides to assess the implications of the proposed changes.
The construction of the HSR Project was meant to provide rail services between Singapore and Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
However, the Pakatan Harapan government made the decision to suspend its construction two years ago as part of drastic cuts to government spending and investment.
A previous report by Fitch Macro Solutions Research said the price tag for the project rose significantly over the years, going from RM43 billion during its announcement to an estimated RM110 billion at the time it was suspended.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said in January this year that Malaysia had remitted S$15 million (RM46.2 million) for costs incurred to suspend the project.
Malaysia was previously given until Sunday to proceed with construction works, as per an agreement signed in Putrajaya on September 5, 2018 by Khaw and Azmin.
Khaw said yesterday that the current Covid-19 pandemic does “inconvenience the discussions” but tele-conferencing can largely overcome the difficulty.
“The key is joint commitment to the project’s vision and mutual trust,” he said. “Nevertheless, the HSR is a complex project, and both sides have to be convinced that the changes do not undermine the original intent of the project.”
He said he remains optimistic that a HSR linking the two capitals will benefit people from both countries.
TODAY previously reported that the cross-border rail network is slated to comprise eight stations. There is the Jurong East station in Singapore and, on the Malaysian side, Bandar Malaysia, Sepang-Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri stations. ― TODAY