KL-Singapore high-speed rail project talks to resume soon, focus on ‘technical changes’, says Azmin

Syed Zahiid Jaymal

Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the Malaysian and Singaporean governments have agreed to resume discussions on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail infrastructure project in the near future. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — Putrajaya said today it has agreed to resume talks over the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project (KL-SG HSR).

Senior Minister in charge of International Trade and Industries Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said the government expects the negotiations to happen “in the near future”, though he didn’t give a timeline.

“The discussions will encompass some of the proposed changes in the commercial and technical aspects of the project,” he said in a statement issued this evening.

Both governments have previously agreed to extend the project’s deferment to December 31, 2020.

The price tag for the project rose significantly over the years, going from RM43 billion during its announcement to an estimated RM110 billion at the time it was suspended.

Azmin, made senior minister after his defection from PKR triggered the fall of Pakatan Harapan government, which will lead the negotiations for the newly-installed Perikatan Nasional administration.

“I have been asked by the Cabinet to lead the Malaysian team in the discussions with the Singapore Government on this project,” he said.

Observers had predicted as early as February that the HSR could be brought back as part of the government’s larger plan to prop up the local economy that has been battered by the US-China trade war as well as the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak this year.

The PH government had nearly scrapped the KL-SG HSR, a project birthed during the premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, citing cost.

It backtracked on the decision on legal grounds, and eventually negotiated for a cost reduction instead.

Among others, it has renegotiated several transportation projects to arrive at discounted prices that will save the country tens of billions on paper.

These include the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), the MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (MRT2), the Light Rail Transit line 3 (LRT3), and most recently, the Pan Borneo Highway.

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