Asia

Mahathir says improve Malaysia's existing rail system before building HSR to Singapore

CYBERJAYA – The proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is nice to have but not necessary for now, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (April 16).

“For Malaysia at the moment, a high-speed train is not really necessary, especially as it is only within Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, he said, adding its development benefits only a few states between the two capital cities, the Malay Mail quoted him as saying.

“So we will not build the high speed train yet, but we will want to improve the quality of service given by our railway system, and that has been done to some extent, by double tracking and electrification,” Dr Mahathir told a forum attended by local railway experts and companies here.

Malaysia had previously requested for the HSR between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to be deferred due to cost constraints.

Last September, both neighbours agreed to the deferment till May 2020, and Malaysia has reimbursed Singapore S$15 million for abortive costs incurred by the delay.

At a retreat last week, Dr Mahathir and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that Malaysia is exploring the possible way forward, with the aim of cost reduction.

Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan government has been looking to cut its expenditure down by either delaying or cancelling mega projects brokered by the previous Barisan Nasional government, citing the national debt having surpassed RM1 trillion (S$330 billion).

Dr Mahathir’s comments on Tuesday come after Malaysia and China last week agreed on a deal that would lower the cost of building the 640km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to RM44 billion (S$14.5 billion).

Both sides also agreed to a 50-50 joint venture to operate the line across Peninsular Malaysia, reducing the financial risks for Kuala Lumpur.

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