Friday, May 24, 2024

End of the line: Malaysia and Singapore kill bullet train project | Business and economic news

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The project was first approved in 2013 but has been delayed several times; Malaysia wanted changes due to the economic downturn from COVID.

A multibillion-dollar high-speed rail link between Singapore and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur has been interrupted.

The two countries were unable to reach an agreement on the project after Malaysia requested changes due to the economic impact of the pandemic, according to a joint statement on Friday. Malaysia will have to compensate Singapore for costs already incurred, the city-state’s transport ministry said in a separate statement.

The announcement came just after the December 31 deadline for the second and final extension of the project’s suspension, which was first mentioned ten years ago and which was given the green light in 2013. In June , Southeast Asian neighbors had agreed to put the development, which has already resulted in multiple suspensions, once again suspended amid a cost discussion.

The 350-kilometer (218-mile) loop-walk high-speed rail link would have cut travel time between centers to around 90 minutes from over four hours by car. While the flight between the two only takes about an hour, it’s much longer once airport check-in and security are taken into account. The service was scheduled to start in 2026.

“In light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Malaysian economy, the Malaysian government had proposed several changes to the HSR project,” according to the joint statement by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “The two governments had had several discussions about these changes and had not been able to come to an agreement.”

Local media in Malaysia reported in November that Malaysia was considering ending the line in its southern city of Johor Bahru rather than in Singapore.

The administration of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned in February, sought to cancel the project amid the country grappling with debt and liabilities amounting to more than RM 1 trillion (249 billion dollars), before settling for a postponement and S $ 15 million. ($ 11.4 million) in compensation in Singapore.

Mahathir at one point estimated that the project would cost Malaysia around 110 billion ringgit.

“The two countries will respect their respective obligations and will now take the necessary measures, resulting from the termination of the HSR agreement,” the joint statement said.


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