HSR “not really necessary” as it’s only between Singapore and KL, Mahathir says

Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the country would eventually need a high-speed train from Johor Baru to Penang, and possibly even to the Thai border.
MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd

Even as Malaysia puts its High-Speed Railway (HSR) project with Singapore on hold, it’s mulling the possibility of extending the train track as far as Thailand, the New Straits Times (NST) reported Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as saying on Tuesday (April 16).

According to NST, the PM – who was speaking at a local rail engineering forum – told reporters that the country did not currently need a high-speed train service just between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

However, it would “eventually” need to build a train service “from Johor Baru to Penang, and even the Thai border”, NST quoted the PM as saying.

He added that this was why Malaysia had not built the HSR yet, but admitted it was unlikely Singapore would consider stretching the service up to Thailand.

Malaysia had initially wanted to scrap the HSR project in a bid to trim its RM1 trillion (S$329 billion) national debt. The proposed rail service would cut travel time between the republic and KL to 90 minutes.

Read also: ‘Benefits outweighed the costs’: Najib hits back at KL-Singapore high-speed rail project cancellation on Facebook

The countries are due to resume HSR discussions by 2020 after Singapore agreed to suspend construction for two years, with Malaysia forking out S$15 million (RM45.6 million) as reimbursement.

According to the Malay Mail, Mahathir described the HSR as nice but “not really necessary”, adding that it would only benefit a few states. Instead, the country is working on improving the quality of its existing rail services, he added.

Last week, Malaysia also renegotiated a deal with China to build the 640km East Coast Rail Link at a reduced cost, to avoid paying the RM21.8 billion cancellation fee.

Read also: A proposed rail upgrading plan could save the Malaysian government nearly RM50 billion without building the KL-Singapore high-speed rail – here’s how