Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to put the High-Speed Rail (HSR) on hold after ministers in charge met on Thursday (Aug 23), with senior officials now tasked with negotiating the terms of the deferment.
The Straits Times understands that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan communicated Singapore’s agreement to the request for a deferment at the meeting in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali.
Both sides will now study how long the project should be shelved for, before returning to the discussion table.
The 350km rail line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was agreed on in 2016 and originally slated for completion in 2026.
The timeframe is important, as there are cost implications and compensation will have to be negotiated.
“Everyone is huddling at their own end and senior officials will come together soon, within the next one week,” said a source familiar with negotiations on the link which would shorten travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes.
It is understood that a deferment of either one or two years has been mooted.
The Thursday discussion was the second official meeting between the ministers in charge, with the first held on Aug 11.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad initially announced in May that his weeks-old government wanted to scrap the link. Malaysia later softened its stance, saying it would negotiate with Singapore and seek a deferment.
Datuk Seri Azmin said the second meeting saw “a thorough and detailed discussion. We are optimistic of a win-win resolution soon”.
The Malaysian government has said it can ill-afford the estimated HSR cost of RM110 billion (S$36.8 billion), as it is saddled with RM1 trillion in national debt.
Mr Khaw said in July that Singapore has spent more than S$250 million on the project and is likely to pour in another S$40 million by the year end.