Focus on High Speed Rail, not more bridges

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad with Bursa Malaysia chairman Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen at Invest Malaysia 2019. He said Malaysia remains committed to trade with all key partners, particularly nations with "close and strongest links". PHOTO: BERNAMA

It is not clear why Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested that Singapore and Malaysia need three to four more bridges (China, S'pore are Malaysia's key trade partners: Mahathir, March 20).

We are close neighbours, but have no need for more than the two existing links, as Singapore is an island nation.

Tun Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying that Singapore does not want any more bridges for some reason that he himself does not understand, and drew a parallel to Penang's planned third link to mainland Peninsular Malaysia.

First, Singapore is not Penang, which is a state in Malaysia that can build as many bridges as it wants.

Second, Singapore's shoreline is not long enough to accommodate multiple bridges.

Third, land-scarce Singapore must be prudent in allocating land and resources.

More bridges mean more vehicular traffic and the need to build more highways. More bridges do not ensure smoother traffic flow if the immigration counters are not able to keep up.

Malaysians and Singaporeans alike reacted with enthusiasm when the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project was announced.

It would cut travelling time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes, compared with more than four hours by car, and would be safer and better for the environment.

As it has several stops along the way in Johor, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan before arriving in Kuala Lumpur, it was supposed to be a boon for Malaysians working in Singapore.

Singaporeans would also benefit with day trips. It would be a win-win situation.

The euphoria has since dissipated after the HSR project was halted due to the lack of funds in Dr Mahathir's government's.

Perhaps Dr Mahathir should consider whether the money that would be spent on more bridges would be better allocated to the more practical HSR project.

Lin Howard

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2019, with the headline Focus on High Speed Rail, not more bridges. Subscribe