SINGAPORE: Singapore and Malaysia are still in the process of negotiating on some proposals mooted by Malaysia to "improve" the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Mustapa Mohamed.
In a statement released on Friday (Nov 27), Mr Mustapa said: "Referring to some reports published recently regarding the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project, Malaysia and Singapore are still in the process of negotiating on some proposals submitted by Malaysia to improve this project."
"Both countries have until Dec 31 to conduct the negotiation processes. The government will make an announcement after the final decision is reached and the negotiation processes are completed," he added.
His statement came after news portal Free Malaysia Today, citing sources, reported that Putrajaya is considering changing the HSR project so that the line would end in Johor Bahru, rather than in Singapore.
This could mean the project, first announced in 2010, may resume without Singapore's participation.
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Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement on Thursday that the HSR Bilateral Agreement in December 2016 is a legally binding international agreement which remains in force today.
It noted that construction of the HSR project has been suspended twice at Malaysia’s request.
"During the suspension period, Malaysia has proposed some changes to the HSR Project, and we have been discussing them in good faith with Malaysia," said the statement.
"Singapore continues to believe that the HSR Project is beneficial for both countries, and remains fully committed to fulfilling our obligations under the HSR Bilateral Agreement. We will make our best efforts to conclude discussions with Malaysia by Dec 31," the MOT spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that if by Dec 31 Malaysia does not proceed with the HSR project, Malaysia will bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the HSR Bilateral Agreement.
In September 2018, both sides agreed to postpone the construction of the HSR until end-May this year. Malaysia had to pay Singapore S$15 million for costs incurred in suspending the project.
Malaysia later requested a further seven-month extension to allow both sides to discuss and assess Malaysia’s proposed changes to the project.
Mr Khaw Boon Wan, who was then Singapore’s Transport Minister, agreed to the “final extension of the suspension period” until Dec 31.
Both countries had also announced that the HSR service would be expected to start by Jan 1, 2031, instead of the original commencement date of Dec 31, 2026, as a result of that suspension.
The proposed HSR line aims to reduce travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to around 90 minutes by train, from the current 11 hours on existing train services.
When operational, the line will offer an express service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a domestic service from Kuala Lumpur to Iskandar Puteri and a shuttle service from Iskandar Puteri to Jurong East.