August 4, 2023
SINGAPORE – Singapore has not received any new proposal from Malaysia for a high-speed rail (HSR) line between the city state and Kuala Lumpur, Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat told Parliament on Thursday.
“Singapore is willing to discuss any new proposal for a Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail from Malaysia in good faith, starting from a clean slate,” Mr Chee said, in response to questions from MPs.
“We have not yet received any new proposal from Malaysia.”
Mr Chee’s comments came after Malaysia recently kickstarted a process to seek proposals to revive the rail line project, which was terminated in 2021.
A briefing for a Request for Information (RFI) exercise, hosted by MyHSR Corporation at Malaysia’s finance ministry on July 27, drew 700 attendees and a handful of foreign missions. The corporation oversees the HSR project.
The exercise is open to local and international firms, allowing the Malaysian government to assess the industry’s ability to fully fund the project, MyHSR had said.
Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) asked if there would be any change to the alignment of the HSR line in Singapore if the project is brought back.
As part of initial plans, the line was to have seven stations in Malaysia, with trains stopping at Jurong East in Singapore.
Mr Chee said Singapore would need to receive the proposal before studying it.
“We’ll keep an open mind on what are the possibilities to have a win-win arrangement between Singapore and Malaysia,” added the acting minister.
Workers’ Party MP Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) asked if Singapore’s transport authorities were involved in the preparation of MyHSR Corporation’s RFI exercise, and if any Singapore firms took part in an earlier information-gathering exercise organised by the corporation in March.
In reply, Mr Chee stressed that MyHSR is carrying out the RFI exercise and the Singapore authorities are not involved.
The HSR project was terminated in January 2021, after both countries failed to reach an agreement on several changes proposed by Malaysia.
The two countries had agreed to build the rail line in 2013 and signed an agreement to construct it in 2016.
In 2018, Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, however, shelved plans for the project for two years owing to high costs.
It was delayed further from May to December 2020, before the project was called off on Jan 1, 2021.
Malaysia paid $102.8 million to Singapore in compensation for the termination.
At Thursday’s Parliament sitting, Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) also asked about the potential economic opportunities to be reaped from a new Johor-Singapore special economic zone announced in July.
Areas of cooperation could include transport connectivity, innovation, environment, tourism, and technical and skills training, The Straits Times reported previously.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said a task force is studying the establishment of the zone with the intention of driving economic growth, beefing up economic connectivity between Singapore and Johor, and promoting collaboration for the benefit of both countries.
The Government will provide an update on the task force’s progress at the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat later in 2023.