High-speed rail from KL to Johor? Nonsense, says ex-transport minister

Anthony Loke speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Anthony Loke speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Former transport minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook decried the government’s suggestion of a “domestic high-speed rail” project as “nonsensical”, saying it should not be entertained.

The criticism followed Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed’s statement earlier today indicating the possibility of replacing the terminated KL-Singapore HSR project with a local high-speed rail line.

Loke had asked if the proposed domestic HSR entails a rail line from KL to Johor Baru.

The DAP politician said the idea would be redundant since there is already a project that would link Johor’s capital city to KL via the Gemas electronic train system line, which spans all the way to Padang Besar, Perlis, in the north.

“Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed had said the government may continue the HSR domestically by not connecting to Singapore. If by domestic, he meant a route to connect Johor Baru to KL then it’s nonsensical,” Loke said in a Facebook post.

“Because the KL-JB route already has an existing train line. The current project undertaken is the double rail line between Gemas to Johor Baru,” he noted.

The Gemas ETS project, at a cost of RM10 billion, is expected to be ready next year.

Malaysia and Singapore issued separate statements to announce the automatic termination of the KL HSR Bilateral Agreement this morning.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said Putrajaya had allowed the HSR bilateral agreement to be terminated and has agreed to compensate the island republic for costs already incurred in fulfilling its obligations under the agreement.

Malaysia, on the other hand, said it would honour its obligations under the HSR Bilateral Agreement with Singapore and pay compensation.

Mustapa said both sides had failed to reach a deal on proposed new changes affecting the cross-border project before the extension contract’s expiry date yesterday, effectively making it “lapse”.

The minister also suggested that Malaysia, constrained by the spending to alleviate its own pandemic-hit economy, may be able to finance its part of the deal.

Loke had asked the government to be transparent about the compensation paid to Singapore.

“During Pakatan Harapan’s era, all costs paid to Singapore following the project’s delay were openly declared,” he said.

“The Perikatan Nasional administration shouldn’t hide such information.”

The project was suspended from September 2018 to December 31, 2020 at Malaysia’s request.

Singapore claimed the understanding that the extension of the suspension period until December 31, 2020 would be the “final extension”.

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