Sultan Ibrahim wants HSR project revived

PETALING JAYA: Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar plans to revive the high-speed rail (HSR) link project with Singapore.

“I will make it (come back) on.”

The line could be funded through a private finance initiative where the government pays the contractor to operate the line on a 30-year lease so that it can recoup its costs, before taking ownership, the Johor Ruler told The Straits Times/ANN.

“If you stayed to your first proposal, it’s only so much. But because of your on-off-on-off, today it is so much (more),” His Majesty said.

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This was in reference to the initial RM72bil cost estimate when the rail link was first announced in 2013.

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

The 350km railway line, which was aimed to be completed in 2026, would reduce travel time between Kuala Lumpur-Singapore to 90 minutes.

However, the project, estimated at RM110bil later, was put on the backburner in September 2018 with both sides agreeing to shelve it until Dec 31, 2020.

On Jan 1, 2022, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the project as no agreement was reached on the changes proposed by Malaysia and the fact that the agreement had expired on Dec 31, 2020.

However, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in August that the high-speed rail line project was still under discussion.

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During the interview, Sultan Ibrahim also spoke warmly about his and Johor’s deep ties with close neighbour Singapore.

“Johor and Singapore, over a cup of tea, we can decide something,” said His Majesty.

Sultan Ibrahim ascribed this to the “special relationship” not just between governments, but also between the Johor royal house and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s family, with the two leaders having known each other for more than 35 years.

Expressing his hope of even closer ties between Johor and Singapore when a new generation of leaders headed by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong is expected to take over the reins in the island state next year, the Johor Ruler said he is looking forward to opportunities to “meet more often ... and host each other.”

His Majesty suggested deeper collaboration on technology parks and data centres, as well as sending “our officers to you for training, you send your officers to us to see what’s lacking.”

“That should be the way,” Sultan Ibrahim said.

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