KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Putrajaya is still conducting studies on which high speed rail (HSR) project is better for Malaysia, whether the line should end in Johor Baru or in Singapore, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed told the Dewan Rakyat today.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of economic affairs said one of the obstacles in implementing the project was Singapore’s insistence on keeping the jointly-tendered asset company AssetsCo in all agreements.

“This study is to ascertain whether the KL-JB or Kl-Singapore line is better and which has better economic spillover effects.

“It has been ongoing since February this year and when it is ready we will bring it to the Cabinet for discussions.

“The only obstacle we have in any agreement is in the method of implementation. Singapore insists on having AssetCo in the agreement. However we in Malaysia feel we need alternatives,” Mustapa said in Dewan Rakyat today in answer to Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng.

In January, Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the original HSR agreement between Singapore and Malaysia included the setting up of an assets company to act as a systems supplier and network operator of the HSR service, which would, in turn, ensure that the interests of both countries were protected.

When Malaysia proposed to remove the assets company, Singapore was unable to agree to this “particularly significant change”, which constitutes a fundamental departure” from the HSR bilateral agreement signed by the two neighbours in 2016, Ong said.

Lim questioned Mustapa the reasons for not having AssetsCo in the agreement. The Opposition lawmaker asked if this was a departure from the open tender which was supposed to happen in a project of this size.

“Having this as an open tender is important to ensure accountability and transparency in such a huge contract such as this.

“It would be better to just cancel the contract entirely,” said Lim, a former finance minister.

Mustapa replied that the government felt the project was still viable and was hoping to try and implement the new track to Johor Baru if the studies show it is viable.

The minister said a joint asset company would lead to additional costs that the government could not afford.

The HSR project was initiated during Najib’s time as prime minister and suspended by the Pakatan Harapan administration that won the 2018 general election.

When Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was prime minister, Malaysia paid Singapore RM320 million in compensation for the termination of the project.

In a recent visit to the island republic last month, current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob told his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong that Malaysia was keen to revive the HSR.

The Singapore PM replied that his government is open to fresh proposals from Malaysia.