Report: Putrajaya’s proposed new economic corridor could revive HSR project sooner

R. Loheswar
Johor Immigration Director Baharuddin Tahir briefs Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a site visit to the Sultan Iskandar (BSI) Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex in Johor Baru October 31, 2019. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — The federal government could resume the postponed high-speed rail (HSR) project with Singapore sooner than expected if a new planned development blueprint is passed by the national Economic Action Council (EAC), according to The Straits Times (ST)

Citing anonymous government officials, the Singapore daily said the new plan aims to create a network of economic centres stretching from Bandar Malaysia — the Malaysian end of the shelved HSR project — here all the way south to Johor.

Sources told ST the NEC could begin as early as next year if it gets the green light from the EAC, chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“The technical assessment is nearly complete, but the commercial one is the actual test, as the economic viability of the project must be justified,” a top Putrajaya official told ST on condition of anonymity.

The plan is still in its infancy and remains hush-hush; it has currently been given the working name New Economic Corridor (NEC).

If the plan goes through, it would connect existing developed centres like the Aeropolis around the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the Vision Valley industrial park in Negri Sembilan, Iskandar Malaysia in Johor and smaller towns across the west coast of the peninsula as well as the central interior region to grow their potential.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali had hinted at this new project during the recent Tanjung Piai by-election when he announced plans to create new development “nuclei” beyond the Klang Valley and other cities that can be new engines of economic growth.

The HSR, shelved for two years due to is prohibitive RM110 billion cost, will be coming up again for bilateral discussion between Malaysia and Singapore on May 31.

Government sources also told ST that Putrajaya has been looking at ways to trim the project, with land acquisition and station design identified as key areas where cost can be reduced.

“Many of the stops were allocated more than S$100 million (RM305.6 million) and we believe we can more than halve the amount,” a source was quoted as saying.

A spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport told ST that Putrajaya requested that both sides discuss the way forward for the HSR project during the suspension period, with the aim of reducing costs.

“Singapore has not received any formal proposals from Malaysia on the HSR project to date,” the spokesman added.

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