Malaysia is looking to see if it can get the previously derailed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project back on track in the soonest time possible, according to prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
He said that transport minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong was currently in preliminary talks with his Singaporean counterpart S. Iswaran, and added that Malaysia was hoping to ramp up discussions to ascertain the probability of the project being revived, The Star reports.
“If possible, we want it to be sped up because Malaysia also has plans for a HSR between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. If possible, we want to link Bangkok-KL and KL-Singapore,” he said. The PM said there was a possibility that the HSR route could go up to China, as both China and Thailand are also in the process of constructing high-speed rail projects.
Ismail Sabri said that should it be revived, there would be some changes to the project, including with its terms and conditions. Given that the increasing cost of raw materials, he said Malaysia might consider reducing the size of the stations to keep the overall cost of the project in check.
Asked by reporters if resurrecting the HSR was a priority for his administration, Ismail Sabri said that it wasn’t exactly a priority, but given that the plans were already drawn up, it was simply a matter of establishing if it was still viable.
The plan for the KL-Singapore HSR began in December 2016, whe the two countries signed a bilateral agreement to facilitate the project, which was supposed to have begun construction in 2018 and completed in 2025, with operations slated to begin in 2026.
The project was planned as a 350 km-long double-track route (335 km of which was supposed to be in Malaysia, and 15 km in Singapore) with eight stops in total – Singapore, Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh, Seremban, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. A bridge over the Straits of Johor – with a height clearance of 25 metres – would have linked the line between both countries.
The service was projected to run 10 car-long trains – with the capacity for up to 100 passengers per car – at average speeds of 300 km/h, which would bring the rail travel time between KL and Singapore down to 90 minutes, excluding clearance at customs, immigration and quarantine.
In September 2018, at the request of Malaysia, both governments agreed to postpone the project until May 31, 2020 to allow for the identification of cost reduction options, including reviewing and optimising the alignment, station locations and the business model.
The deferment resulted in Malaysia paying S$15 million (around RM45.1 million at the time) as compensation for the abortive costs incurred by Singapore. The payment was made at the end of January 2019. In May 2020, the deferment was extended to December 31 that year.
The HSR project was finally terminated by both countries in January 2021, when it was announced that both parties could not come to an agreement on the proposed changes. It was reported last year that the total payment made eventually by Malaysia to Singapore was S$102.8 million (RM330.3mil).
In November last year, the KL-SG HSR popped up again when Ismail Sabri made an official visit to Singapore, where he suggested reviving discussions on the HSR to his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, who said he was open to any new proposal on the project.