Singapore asks KL to clarify position on HSR project by July 31

An artist's impression of the planned Iskandar Puteri high-speed rail station in Johor.
An artist's impression of the planned Iskandar Puteri high-speed rail station in Johor. PHOTO: EDELMAN

Transport Ministry says Malaysia has yet to make known dates for discussions

Singapore's Transport Ministry has asked the Malaysian government to provide a written response clarifying its position on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project by July 31.

A ministry spokesman also said yesterday that if Malaysia wishes to meet Singapore to discuss the HSR project, it should do so by that same date.

"They have yet to provide to Singapore the clarifications sought, or communicate their proposed dates for such discussions," said the spokesman, who added that the ministry made its request to Malaysia via diplomatic channels.

The spokesman was responding to queries from the media about comments made on Thursday by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Tun Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia would negotiate a deferment of the HSR project with Singapore so as to avoid paying compensation under an earlier plan to scrap the project.

He also said there will be discussions on the matter when Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali visits Singapore by the end of the month.

Datuk Seri Azmin's office has said that it would inform Singapore about proposed dates for the discussions before the end of the month. However, no date has yet been set for a meeting.

In May, Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia's Cabinet had agreed to scrap the HSR project to reduce Malaysia's debt.

But he backtracked last month, saying that the project would be postponed instead.

The 350km HSR - a project agreed to during former prime minister Najib Razak's time in office - would cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes, compared with more than four hours by car.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said earlier this month in Parliament that Singapore has already spent $250 million on the project, and is likely to pour in another $40 million by the year end.

Yesterday, the Transport Ministry spokesman said: "We note the multiple and conflicting statements made by the Malaysian government concerning its intentions for the HSR project.

"As the HSR bilateral agreement is a binding international treaty, both Malaysia and Singapore remain obliged to fulfil the existing terms of the agreement, in the absence of mutually agreed amendments to the agreement."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore asks KL to clarify position on HSR project by July 31'. Print Edition | Subscribe