Singapore-Malaysia High Speed Rail decision deferred until 31st December
Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced on social media over the weekend that his Malaysian counterparts had requested a further extension for the talks to determine the course of action for the Singapore to Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project. It has now been agreed that talks will continue until 31 December 2020.
Since the project’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2016, the development was planned to have an HSR line run down the west coast of Malaysia. From the capital of Kuala Lumpur, it would visit Sepang-Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat, and Iskandar Puteri before crossing the border and entering the final terminus in Singapore.
Following a change of government in Malaysia, the Malaysians called for a review of the project and a decision to postpone the HSR development was announced on 5th September 2018. Malaysia agreed to pay Singapore S$15 million (Approx. US$11m) for costs incurred and that they would conduct a technical review of the project before agreeing an outcome by the end of May 2020.
With seven of the eight originally proposed stations (as well as three maintenance depots) all being based within Malaysia, it is the Malaysians that have been reviewing their options in order to come up with the most cost-effective plan. The Malaysian government tasked a local engineering consultancy group and an international accounting firm with conducting a review of the project, but it is yet to confirm their plan. They have given the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the delay.
In his Instagram post (see below), Khaw Boon Wan pointed out that it is still possible to conduct talks via videoconference, seemingly hinting that, whilst the Covid-19 pandemic does not help matters, technology offers enough of a solution to ensure that there are no further delays to the outcome of the talks.
In Kuala Lumpur, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali announced that he has been asked to lead talks on behalf of the Malasian government.