Further suspension of the KL-SG High Speed Rail (HSR)

At Malaysia’s request, Singapore has agreed to suspend the HSR project for another 7 months until 31 December 2020. This is the final extension and we will get to know whether the HSR will proceed or get scrapped by the end of the year. As of now, the former Jurong Country Club, which was compulsorily acquired in 2015 is still vacant without any ongoing construction works.

The announcements came the same day as the deadline to decide on the project’s fate, after both countries agreed in September 2018 to suspend it for about two years.

That decision had pushed the completion date for the 350km rail line from end-2026 to January 2031.

In response to media queries, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport confirmed that Malaysia’s Government had informed Singapore it would like to propose some changes to the HSR project and requested the seven-month extension.

“Singapore continues to believe that the HSR project is a mutually beneficial project that will strengthen the connectivity and people-to-people ties between our two countries,” it said.

“We look forward to receiving Malaysia’s formal proposal on the changes to the HSR project soon, so that both sides can begin discussion immediately,” added the ministry.

Mr Khaw disclosed on Friday that Malaysia had asked for an extension, and said then that Singapore remains “committed and enthusiastic and positive” about the project’s prospects for both countries.

It was a message he reiterated on Sunday, saying: “I remain optimistic that a HSR linking our two capitals will benefit both our peoples.”

The rail line would cut travelling time between Malaysia’s capital and Singapore to 90 minutes, compared to more than four hours by car.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had initially wanted to scrap the project as part of a review of his country’s mega projects, in a bid to trim a RM1 trillion (S$325 billion) national debt.

However, after the change of government in Malaysia’s 2018 general election, a deal was negotiated to suspend the project instead as a cancellation would have entailed a high amount of compensation under the HSR agreement.

MyHSR Corp, the Malaysian company in charge of developing the HSR, said last year that it was reviewing proposed changes to the project and identifying cost-reduction options for the Malaysian government.

Malaysia had paid Singapore S$15 million for the abortive costs the Republic incurred as a result of the project being suspended.

Mr Khaw told Parliament in October 2018 that a suspension beyond two years would mean current cost estimates would likely no longer be valid, and affect the viability of the project and its business case. A longer suspension would also impact development plans for the Jurong Lake District, which will host the Singapore HSR Terminus and many transport, commercial, residential and recreational developments, he added.

Should the HSR project be terminated, Malaysia would have to reimburse the project implementation costs incurred by Singapore up to the point of suspension.

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