JOHOR BARU, Dec 24 — Johor PKR deputy chief Jimmy Puah Wee Tse today questioned the federal government’s decision to reroute the High Speed Rail (HSR) project without Singapore’s participation in the process.
He also took issue that Malaysia must pay Singapore a whopping RM300 million in compensation for the new re-routing that will see the HSR start from Kuala Lumpur and end in Johor Baru.
“The new HSR route would just be from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru. I seriously question the economic viability of this plan without the initial proposed ridership from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur,” said Puah in a statement issued here.
Puah also pointed out that the initial project may cost as much as RM68 billion.
“With such huge infrastructure and building cost, can the government sustain this project without Singapore’s participation? What is the amended calculation or ridership and return on investment of this project now?” questioned the Bukit Batu assemblyman.
Puah, who is a former state executive councillor in the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government, said he has always maintained that HSR project should be continued as long as there are stops in Johor such as Johor Baru and other important towns in central or northern Johor, but at an affordable price.
“But with the new amended plan, I certainly have my doubt now on the financial ability of the government to provide a first-class high-speed rail system at an affordable price from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru,” he said, urging the federal government to disclose the amended HSR plan soon for public consultation.
Over the past weeks, various news reports have emerged that the HSR line will now end in Johor Baru rather than Singapore, and Malaysia is prepared to pay up to RM300 million in compensation for it.
Back in 2016, Singapore and Malaysia agreed to the project, but the huge cost of RM60 billion to RM70 billion had drawn a lot of criticisms then.
The original plan was for eight stops from Kuala Lumpur through Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri before terminating the line in Singapore, which covers an entire distance of 350km.
However, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced in 2018 that the government would not proceed with the project given its high cost.
After the Perikatan Nasional (PN) took federal power early this year, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali in June said both Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to extend the deferment of the project until December 31.
However, in November Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Malaysia would continue with the project without Singapore.
He followed this up with another statement on December 2 saying that both countries have gain “a good understanding” of each other’s position on the project.