The twice-delayed high-speed rail (HSR) project between Malaysia and Singapore will no longer go ahead after both countries were unable to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia. First announced in 2013, the project linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore has been estimated by analysts to cost around $17 billion.
It was suspended in 2018 shortly after former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came to power with a pledge to tighten finances and review major deals made by his predecessor Najib Razak.
The train line would have connected the 350 km stretch between the two capitals in just 90 minutes.
The on-off project was intended to boost cross-border business and development of areas along the track.
Railway-related manufacturers and operators from Japan, China, and Europe expressed interest in the project.
What did Malaysia want?
Malaysia had proposed changes in the project structure, alignment, and station design as well as advancing the start of construction by two years to give a boost to the economy battered by the pandemic.
Malaysian Economy Minister Mustapa Mohamed said in a separate statement. It also wanted to allow for more flexible financing options, including deferred payments and public-private partnerships.
He added that Malaysia will honor its obligations and both countries will initiate the necessary procedures to determine the amount of compensation.
How many times this Project was dropped
Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong formally agreed to the joint project in February 2013.
Then, it was suspended in 2018 when Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came to power.
On 5 September 2018, it was announced that the HSR operations would start in January 2031.
Malaysia subsequently underwent a second change in government in the aftermath of the 2020 Political Crisis.
A further time extension was requested to review the project, with Singapore agreeing to a deadline of end-2020.
The two governments subsequently failed to reach an agreement to continue the project and terminated it on 1 January 2021 in a joint statement.
A joint statement released by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that “Both governments had conducted several discussions with regard to these changes and had not been able to reach an agreement.”
Though the statement did not mention what changes Malaysia had proposed. But stretched government finances and prolonged travel restrictions are likely to have been factors in the termination of the project.