PM Lee Hsien Loong to witness signing of High Speed Rail MOU

He and Najib will attend Putrajaya ceremony; commitment to project 'a sign of strong ties'

Jurong East site plan where the High Speed Rail terminus Singapore stop would be located at.
Jurong East site plan where the High Speed Rail terminus Singapore stop would be located at. PHOTO: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit Putrajaya today for the signing of an agreement on the much-anticipated High Speed Rail that will connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

PM Lee and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the project, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement yesterday.

First announced in 2013 at the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat, the ambitious rail link is set to be the first of its kind in South-east Asia. It is billed as a "game-changer" that will reduce travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 11/2 hours, compared with more than four hours by car.

Calling it a "key bilateral project for both countries", the PMO said yesterday: "The two governments' commitment to this project is a reflection of our strong bilateral ties and our continued efforts to deepen relations.

"When completed, the High Speed Rail will boost connectivity, strengthen economic ties and forge closer people-to-people linkages."

The PMO statement added: "The signing of the MOU is a significant milestone and testament to our close bilateral cooperation."

Datuk Seri Najib said in a post on his blog last night that relations between Malaysia and Singapore are stronger, and since he became Prime Minister, he has been advocating "a spirit of mutual benefit between our two countries".

"Together, we are on a forward trajectory in both trade cooperation and people-to-people ties," he said, noting that the High Speed Rail will boost connectivity between both peoples.

"Once completed, Malaysians will be able to have nasi lemak in Kuala Lumpur, close deals over chilli crab in Singapore and be back for a dinner of rendang with the family," he added.

PM Lee will be accompanied on his visit by Mrs Lee; Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan; and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. Mr Khaw and Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan will sign the MOU.

Ahead of the signing, Mr Najib will host a lunch for PM Lee and his delegation. Both leaders will hold a joint press conference after the signing ceremony.

Also in PM Lee's delegation are officials from the PMO, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information, Land Transport Authority and Attorney-General's Chambers.

A report by Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times last Thursday said the MOU will pave the way for further negotiations on an official bilateral agreement.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters at the weekend that a tender for the project is expected to be called "within a year's time". He did not elaborate.

The proposed High Speed Rail, expected to be 350km long, will begin at Bandar Malaysia - which is 3km from Kuala Lumpur's financial district - and terminate in Jurong East.

Its Singapore terminus will be part of the upcoming Jurong Lake District, envisioned as Singapore's second Central Business District.

Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority launched a Request for Proposal to develop masterplans for the area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2016, with the headline 'PM Lee to witness signing of High Speed Rail MOU'. Print Edition | Subscribe