Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister, Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who met with Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan to discuss the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project said on Thursday that “we are inching closer towards a win-win deal on HSR, thanks to the hardwork of officials from both sides.”
— Mohamed Azmin Ali (@AzminAli) August 30, 2018
The Malaysian Minister who is currently in Singapore for a series of meetings, assuaged the concerns of his counterparts in Singapore after the Malaysian Government said it would defer implementation of the HSR project linking Kuala Lumpur with Singapore due to tight financial circumstances.
After a series of seeming flip-flops on the topic, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in July that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project may be postponed, not cancelled. “At the moment, we don’t have the funds. So if need be, we will put the project on hold,” he told reporters then, adding that his Government would send Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali to renegotiate the project with Singapore.
Dr Mahathir said: “Singapore wants to know the status of the project and our stance on the matter. But when we look at our financial situation, we cannot implement it. We need to study the implications and review the contract and cost of the project. We either have to postpone the project or reduce the cost, but it is difficult to bring down the cost.”
Following Dr Mahathir’s announcement in May that he would pull out of the “unnecessary” HSR agreement with Singapore, the Singapore Government said that it would seek compensation totaling $250 million from their Malaysian counterparts if the project was unilaterally cancelled by our neighbours across the causeway. project”.
The win-win deal on HSR may mean that the neighbours have worked out a compromise on this sticky topic.
Mr Azmin had earlier said that the overall cost of the project stood at RM110 billion ($37 billion), not between RM54 billion ($18 billion) and RM74 billion ($25 billion) as projected by the previous government. He said this was because the Najib Razak’s administration had not included the hidden costs in the project estimation.
His comments comes after Malaysian Finance Minister, Lim Eng Guan, said that the “Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail can be “so much cheaper (and that) if the financial architecture is done right, it doesn’t need to cost so much. If you work out the financial architecture, I think we can get it (Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project) so much cheaper. With the Bandar Malaysia land and all that…but I don’t want to reveal too much.”
Lim’s comments raised expectations in some quarters that the shelved project may be revived sometime in the future if a win-win deal on HSR was found with Singapore.
The Minister for National Development assured Singaporeans in July that the Jurong Lake District’s momentum and vision has not changed despite the uncertainty over the Kuala-Lumpur to Singapore High Speed rail project. The Minister ,Lawrence Wong, added: “Some details may need to be adjusted along the way, as circumstances change. But the bottom line is that we have an exciting transformation plan for the whole area, and we will proceed with the implementation of these plans when ready.”
In responding to a question from MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Alex Yam, Mr Wong said: “The bottom line is that we have an exciting transformation plan for the whole area, and we will proceed with the implementation of these plans when ready.” Mr Yam had asked on the implications for development plans for sites along the Singapore stretch of the HSR, especially in the Jurong Lake District and land acquisition for the proposed HSR, should the project be terminated.
Mr Wong believes that the Jurong Lake District’s momentum won’t be affected because plans for the area “were developed well before Malaysia proposed the HSR project”. “It was only in 2015, after further study of the HSR proposal, that we decided to locate the Singapore terminus of the HSR in Jurong,” he added.
News that the Malaysian Government plans to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project rocked the property market sentiments built around the Jurong Lake District area. The Malaysian Minister’s comments on a “win-win deal on HSR inching closer”, would be much welcomed relief for the stakeholders in the development of that area, which’is being developed as Singapore’s second Central Business District.
“The development of Jurong Lake District is part of Singapore’s broader effort to develop urban centres outside the downtown area, so as to bring jobs, amenities and recreational options closer to homes,” the Minister said.
The development plans for the Jurong Lake District area includes several new projects like the building of 20,000 new homes as well as the expansion of major transport hub connecting the existing North-South and East-West MRT lines, as well as the upcoming Jurong Region and Cross Island lines. It also includes plans to upgrade the Jurong Lake Gardens.
Mr Wong said that these plans are still relevant today and that the land parcels that the Government has acquired are needed to realise these plans.
“The land parcels that the Government has acquired are needed to realise these plans,” he said, adding that the Jurong Country Club site will provide for new mixed-use developments and community facilities, while the Raffles Country Club site is needed for the Cross Island Line western depot and other transport related uses.
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