PM Lee Hsien Loong to discuss Singapore-KL high speed rail with Malaysia PM Najib next week

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday he would be meeting his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak at a leaders' retreat next week when they will discuss areas of cooperation such as the high-speed rail.

"Next week I will be holding a leaders' retreat with Prime Minister Najib Razak. It is my turn to host and he is coming down and we will have a dinner together," PM Lee said when he officiated at the opening of the new chancery of the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

"We will be discussing new areas of cooperation, one of which is the high-speed rail. If we can get the high-speed rail going and running this will be a very important project which will foster closer ties between our people. Then we can come up have lunch and go back to Singapore again."

In 2013, the two countries agreed to have a high-speed rail link that will slash travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes by 2020, a project leaders of both countries called a “game changer”. 

The journey between the two cities takes on average eight hours by train, five hours by bus, four hours by car or 40 minutes by air.

A Business Times report today quoted sources as saying the high-speed rail project may miss its 2020 deadline by two years. One source noted that the delay may not necessarily be a bad thing given the size of the project, which could cost as much as S$14.9 billion.

In his speech, Mr Lee also expressed his gratitude to all Singaporeans and friends of Singapore for coming to the High Commission to sign the condolence book following Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing.

"This year is SG50. It is the 50th anniversary of our independence. It is also the 50th anniversary of Singapore- Malaysia relations. So opening a new chancery building is a good way to commemorate our friendship and to remember how far bilateral relations have come."

Mr Lee pointed out that Kuala Lumpur is one of Singapore's most important missions overseas because Malaysia has always been an important partner. Many Singaporeans are also working and living in Malaysia, he added.

"If Malaysia does well, then both Singapore and Malaysia will prosper. If our relations are good, then we can pursue many win-win opportunities together. But if relations runs into problems, then it will lead to a lot of misunderstanding and trouble for both sides."

The new chancery has a built-up area of about 11,000 sqm with a five-storey office block. The Singapore High Commission handed over the old chancery to the main contractor Obayashi Corporation in January 2012 and moved into the new one in December 2014.

asruls@sph.com.sg