Time is right to revive HSR, says Johor exco member

JOHOR BARU: This is the right time for Malaysia to revisit the High Speed Rail (HSR) project with Singapore, says Johor investment, trade and consumer affairs committee chairman Lee Ting Han.

He added that neighbouring countries were now striding forward, growing stronger, better, faster, while Malaysia was still struggling to find its way out of the economic conundrum.

"Therefore, I take the view that it is the right time for us to revisit whether there is a need to revive the HSR project under the new administration.

"There is no time to lose. With the Covid-19 pandemic derailing our economic growth trajectory, the HSR may help to not just get us back on track, but speed up our journey towards embracing the vibrant global economy," he added.

He was speaking during the Belt and Road Initiative Symposium on HSR closing ceremony at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's (UTM) Skudai campus here on Tuesday (Dec 13).

The Paloh assemblyman also told a press conference that the state was ready to collaborate with Putrajaya on a possible revival of the project.

He said the state government would decide on the kind of collaboration after the Transport Ministry started looking into the feasibility of the project.

"We need to see the ministry proposal first, then the state government will comment on how we can work together, especially involving land issues, planning permission and so on.

"We hope the Federal Government will be able to reconsider the feasibility of the project so that it can create economic spillover in Johor in particular," he added.

When asked if the revival of HSR would address the issue of unsold properties in Johor, Lee said it could play a part.

"It may help partially because we believe the HSR project may create economic spillover as it can attract more talents.

"For example, multinational companies based in Singapore may move some operations to Johor because of the reduction in travelling time. It will create a seamless economic bubble covering Malaysia and Singapore," he said.

On Nov 29, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reportedly said that the republic was open to any new proposal from Malaysia on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR although both countries had earlier agreed to terminate the project.

Malaysia and Singapore inked bilateral agreements for the project on Dec 13, 2016.

The 350km railway line, which was to have been completed in 2026, would reduce the travel time between both destinations to 90 minutes.

However, the project was put on the back burner in September 2018 with both sides agreeing to shelve the bilateral project worth RM110bil until Dec 31, 2020.

On Jan 1 last year, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the HSR project as no agreement was reached on the changes proposed by Malaysia and the fact that the agreement had expired on Dec 31, 2020.

In March last year, Malaysia announced it had paid S$102.8mil (RM330.3mil) to Singapore for costs incurred by the republic for the development of HSR and the delays involved.

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