Does Malaysia want to build its high speed rail WITHOUT Singapore?

News reports in Malaysia are saying that Malaysia will build their high speed rail line without involving Singapore. Rather than have the high speed rail travel to Singapore, reports are suggesting that it will stop at Johor Bahru, in Malaysia. Right now, it’s unclear as to what is true and what is pure conjecture, but here is the update on what’s being discussed.

The logic behind ending the HSR in JB

Earlier this week, Malaysia commenced construction on their part of the RTS project (see here for a report on the RTS). The RTS (Rapid Transit System) is a rail network that will link Malaysia and Singapore. It will travel from Johor Bahru, in Malaysia, across to Singapore. The line will have immigration, customs, and quarantine facilities on both sides of the border. Malaysia has started construction of the station in Johor Bahru – known locally as “JB”.

Before Covid-19 travel restrictions were put in place, thousands of people would cross the border at JB each day by car via a causeway. People travelling on foot needed to pass through immigration and then take a bus across the causeway to the immigration facility on the other side. The process can be very time consuming.

The RTS was originally planned to be an MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) railway line so that it could help to reduce the congestion at the Malaysia-Singapore border in JB. The development has now be altered into a smaller scale LRT (Light Rail Transit) line, as Malaysia wanted to reduce the cost of the project.

If the HSR ends in JB, that suggests that no extra immigration facilities will be constructed to deal with the extra travellers. That would have a huge impact on the project as the HSR is supposed to enter the West of Singapore – whereas the RTS connects with the Woodlands district in the North of Singapore.

Officials from Malaysia may argue that the new RTS will be sufficient to carry travellers across the border. However, the number of commuters will increase if there is a new high speed rail line linking Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s capital) to JB. Plus, Malaysia is also building a 160kmp/h double track railway from Kuala Lumpur to JB. Thus, there the two new railway lines will see cross-border traffic increase substantially.

Compensation for Singapore

The idea of Malaysia building their HSR without Singapore’s involvement seems almost unthinkable. Singapore has already spent millions of dollars buying land for the proposed HSR terminus in the City as well as employing dozens of staff to work on the project. Malaysia has deferred the project and has until 31st December 2020 to make a decision on their plans. Singapore has been confident that the project will be up and running again next year. But this is a new twist in the tale of the prolonged HSR project.

If cut out of the project, Singapore will reportedly seek around SG$250 million (RM760 million) in compensation. The move would also not help relationships between the two countries’ governments.

The countdown to 31st December is on. We will see what new updates come out over the next few days and weeks.

Drop me a line at jon@futurityjobs.com if you’d like to discuss this project in more detail.

Asia, Construction, Malaysia, Rail, Singapore