KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN): Malaysia is expected to restart the twice-delayed High-Speed Rail (HSR) project but without Singapore's involvement, with the line ending in Johor and not Jurong East, The Malaysian Insight (TMI) news site quoted a source as saying on Sunday (Dec 13).
The suspended bilateral project has a Dec 31 deadline as its last extension before officials have to make a final determination on its status.
Asked for comment, a Singapore Ministry of Transport spokesman on Sunday said that both countries are in discussion on the HSR project.
"As communicated in the Dec 2 joint statement by both prime ministers, we will announce further details on the HSR project through a joint statement in due course," the spokesman said.
According to TMI, Malaysia will pay Singapore just under S$105mil (RM320mil) as compensation if it opts to proceed with the project on its own.
"Malaysia will need to compensate Singapore with a payment of S$104.67 million. It must be paid by Dec 31," the source said.
The sum is less than half of the $250 million cited last month by the Free Malaysia Today news site that Singapore would seek as the price to drop the deal.
Malaysia's Ministry of Transport declined comment when contacted.
The TMI report said the Malaysian Cabinet decided last Friday that Malaysia will not continue working with Singapore on the project.
If Malaysia were to complete the HSR on its own, the project would cost around RM65 billion (S$21.4 billion), excluding the trains, the source told TMI.
The original 350km rail project was to run from a terminal station in Bandar Malaysia in downtown Kuala Lumpur, cross the Strait of Johor near the Second Link, and stop at a terminal in Jurong East.
The HSR was slated to have several other stations in between -- in Seremban (Negri Sembilan), Ayer Keroh (Melaka), and three Johor stops in Pagoh, Ayer Itam and Iskandar Puteri.
TMI reported that Malaysia had asked to build a HSR station at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which Singapore had rejected, with the source claiming that the Republic perceived this as a threat to its aviation industry.
The HSR project was first announced in 2010, and was touted as being able to cut the travel time between KL and Singapore to 90 minutes, compared with more than four hours by car.
Both countries signed the bilateral agreement, a legally binding international pact, in Putrajaya in December 2016, witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The original target was to have the trains running by Dec 31,2026.
The new targeted completion date for the HSR is 2029, while the number of expected passengers has been revised downwards to 4.2 million.
It was previously projected that 8.4 million people would take the HSR in 2031.
On Dec 2, PM Lee and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin held talks on the project via video conference, but no further information was given.
The project was first suspended after a change of the Malaysian government following the May 2018 General Election, with then Premier Mahathir Mohamad initially wanting to scrap the HSR as part of a review of mega projects.
The Pakatan Harapan administration led by Tun Dr Mahathir later clarified that it wanted to delay the start of construction, as a cancellation would have entailed a high amount of compensation under the HSR agreement.
Both countries then agreed to suspend the project, at Malaysia's request.
The first extension in September 2018 ended in May this year, but the suspension was extended for a second and final time, till Dec 31. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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