Malaysia seeks to settle HSR issue amicably


A DETAILED discussion on the future of the Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project is expected to take place by month-end as the government wants to work out a win-win solution for both countries.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (picture) said the Singaporean authorities have approached his ministry for a meeting, expected to be held by the end of this month to resolve issues related to the mega project, which is projected to carry a total cost of RM110 billion.

The fine that the federal government needs to pay in case it decides to scrap the project, will also be determined via consultations between the two parties.

“I will be visiting Singapore hopefully by month-end, with several proposals at hand,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Although Azmin did not divulge details of the proposals, he said it would include cost-cutting measures, potential deferment or cancellation.

“I don’t want to arrive at a decision now. When I tabled it to the Cabinet, the decision was for my ministry to negotiate this project with a given guidance,” he added.

Earlier in Dewan Rakyat, Azmin said the RM110 billion price tag — which is almost double the previously estimated RM55 billion — took into account all additional and hidden costs, which are involved in the HSR development.

He said the price tag, which had been disputed by the previous administration, was arrived at based on the government’s internal calculation, in consultation with the Finance Ministry officials.

“The joint agreement inked between the two countries allows any party to cancel the project at any point of time, subject to conditions to be fulfilled.

“The RM110 billion was based on our internal calculations with the Finance Ministry officials. It is true that the cost reported was RM55 billion, but there were a lot of hidden costs which were never revealed by the previous government,” he said, responding to a supplementary question by Pekan MP Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak who asked on how the price tag was arrived at, since the open tender exercise for the project would only be closed at the end of this year.

Azmin added that the Attorney- General’s Chambers had studied the joint agreement inked by both countries and advised the Cabinet to settle the issue amicably as soon as possible.

The bilateral agreement on HSR between Malaysia and Singapore was inked in December 2016.

The KL-Singapore HSR project’s rail track length is expected to be approximately 350km long, which will cut travel time between the cities to a mere 90 minutes from four hours (by road).

A flight takes around 50 minutes, but airport formalities add to the time taken, besides an average one-hour transportation from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the city centre.

Since its announcement in 2015, the project has attracted attention of rail-related companies from Japan, China, Korea and the US.

A field study by the Land Public Transport Commission estimated that the HSR would carry up to 49,000 passengers daily by its 10th year of operation, giving rise to an annual ridership of 17.9 million. Annual ridership could hit 251 million by 2060.

The project was also expected to generate an economic impact of RM100 billion to the country’s gross domestic product once operational.

About RM70 billion was expected from construction, operations and multiplier impact from the mega rail project, while the remaining RM30 billion was targeted from a wider economic benefit via increase in other economic sectors such as property, tourism and services.

The HSR was initially envisioned to be operational by 2020, but was pushed back by the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, citing the complexity of the project.