HSR construction deferred to year-end

The deferment is to allow both govts to thoroughly discuss the changes needed to lower the total cost of the project

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA and Singapore have agreed to extend the deferment of the construction of the Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) until the end of the year.

The governments of both countries have agreed to resume discussions on the HSR “in the near future”, Senior Minister (Economic Cluster) Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said in a statement yesterday.

“The discussions will encompass some of the proposed changes in the commercial and technical aspects of the project.

“This decision was arrived at after both sides mutually agreed to extend the deferment of the HSR project to Dec 31, 2020,” he said.

Azmin, who is also minister of international trade and industry, said he had been asked by the Cabinet to lead the Malaysian team in the discussions with the Singaporean government over the project.

Last Friday, Singaporean Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a Facebook posting that Malaysia had asked for an extension to the suspension period to allow both governments to thoroughly discuss the changes needed to lower the total cost of the project.

The request was being given “serious consideration”, he added.

The HSR is an infrastructure railway project connecting KL to Singapore through a 350km high-speed train line, said to shorten the travel time between KL and the republic to 90 minutes.

It is a joint initiative between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, which signed a bilateral agreement to build the railway on Dec 13, 2016.

According to the amended agreement between Singapore and Malaysia under the Pakatan Harapan administration, the rail service is expected to commence by Jan 1, 2031, instead of Dec 31, 2026.

In Sept 2018, both countries agreed to suspend construction of the project until May 31, 2020, with Malaysia to reimburse Singapore S$15 million (RM46.17 million) and be liable to pay more if the project fails to resume in two years.

The Malaysian government has been reviewing the project with MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd — the government’s project delivery vehicle for the project — to identify options for cost reduction, including optimising the alignment, station locations and business model.

The Barisan Nasional administration had said the project would cost RM72 billion, while the Pakatan Harapan administration estimated the figure to be around RM110 billion.

Previously, MyHSR announced the appointment of Minconsult Sdn Bhd and Ernst & Young Malaysia as its technical advisory consultant and commercial advisory consultant respectively.

It said Minconsult would focus on the engineering aspects of the project by reviewing and validating the proposed infrastructure design changes within Malaysia which include issues such as the HSR’s alignment, stations and train maintenance facilities.

MyHSR added that the two parties would review proposed changes to the project and further identify options for cost reduction for the government.