Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has clarified that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project was postponed and not scrapped.
On Tuesday (Jun 12), Dr Mahathir told Japanese publication Nikkei Asian Review at the sidelines of the Future of Asia conference in Tokyo that Malaysia is currently not able to afford the project but remains open to working on it in the future, reported The Star.
He said: “We cannot say we will never have HSR in Malaysia. What we can do is we can postpone the project because it is far too costly at this moment.”
Malaysia still views the HSR as a necessity but is something left for future consideration, he added.
According to New Straits Times, Dr Mahathir noted that although the project may be beneficial in the future, the exorbitant RM100 billion ($25 billion) cost of building it was too high and would have stifled government efforts to reduce the RM1 trillion national debt.
He also highlighted the 350km-long track distance of the project as being too short to justify the project’s cost, making the existing deal seem lacking in any sort of benefit to Malaysia.
“High-speed trains are most effective where the distance is very long. But where the distance is short, it doesn’t contribute much,” said Dr Mahathir.
In May, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government’s decision to scrap the project was due to the cost of building the infrastructure and the large sum of money needed to support long-term maintenance of the tracks.
Dr Mahathir previously made an announcement on May 29 that the Cabinet had agreed to abandon the HSR project.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport has not received an official notification of the project’s cancellation.