KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Singapore said on Sunday (May 31) they have reached an agreement to defer the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project again until the end of the year.
The construction of the 350km-long HSR project has been suspended since September 2018 and was due to resume at the end of May.
The update comes after Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Friday said that Singapore was considering Malaysia’s request to extend the suspension period of the project.
Mr Khaw wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday that Malaysia had requested a seven-month extension to allow both sides to discuss and assess Malaysia’s proposed changes to the project.
"In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, we have agreed to a final extension of the suspension period to 31 December 2020," said Mr Khaw.
"This should provide sufficient time for Malaysia to clarify its proposal and for both sides to assess the implications of the proposed changes," he added.
In a separate statement, the Ministry of Transport said that Singapore continues to believe that the HSR project is a mutually beneficial project that will "strengthen the connectivity and people-to-people ties" between the two countries.
"We look forward to receiving Malaysia’s formal proposal on the changes to the HSR project soon, so that both sides can begin discussion immediately," it said.
Malaysian Senior Minister Azmin Ali said in a media release on Sunday that both countries "mutually agreed to extend the deferment".
Mr Azmin, who is also Malaysia's Minister of International Trade and Industry, also said that the governments of both countries agreed to resume discussions on the HSR "in the near future".
He said that the discussions will encompass some of the proposed changes in the commercial and technical aspects of the project.
In September 2018, Singapore and Malaysia 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.
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.
"The key is joint commitment to the project’s vision and mutual trust," Mr Khaw wrote on his Facebook post on Sunday.
"Nevertheless, the HSR is a complex project, and both sides have to be convinced that the changes do not undermine the original intent of the project," he added.