PETALING JAYA: The Johor government has supported Putrajaya’s intention to cancel the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, saying it was timely and in line with the government’s approach not to burden the nation with mega projects.
In a statement today, Menteri Besar Osman Sapian said it would be better for Malaysia to cancel the project and pay a RM500 million penalty rather than paying RM110 billion to build the HSR.
Osman was responding to former MB Khaled Nordin who had said that the HSR was a “game changer” project to the southern state.
Osman said Khaled’s “game changer” statement was unacceptable as it would take nine years or more for the project to be completed and to get tangible returns on the massive investment.
He said the Johor government had better plans and it would begin developing the neglected northern and central parts of the state by introducing modern, cost-effective transportation.
Osman said everyone would be able to enjoy the proposed transportation network unlike the HSR.
“There are parts of Johor that lead a ‘luxurious’ life while some others are left behind, neglected or discriminated,” he said, adding that the northern part of Johor was becoming a victim of property speculation.
Osman was likely referring to the spike in property prices in Muar and Batu Pahat in the northern and central parts of the state respectively, where the HSR stations were originally slated to be built, besides Iskandar Puteri in the south.
“(Khaled) has linked the cancellation of the (HSR) project with failure to safeguard the interest of Johor and its people.
“I wish to assert here that safeguarding the interest of the people of Johor and defending the fate and rights of the people will always be my number one priority as the new MB.”
On May 28, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the HSR was an “unnecessary project” and would be dropped as it would not earn Malaysia a “single sen”.
Meanwhile, Bernama reported former prime minister Najib Razak as saying that the Pakatan Harapan government should conduct studies and provide a comprehensive explanation to the people on the HSR project.
He said the Barisan Nasional government had conducted years of studies and found that the HSR would contribute RM209 billion to the Gross Domestic Product, compared to its cost of RM70 billion.
He said the income which would be generated from HSR-linked development projects far exceeded that of ticket sales, which involved increase in property value, the creation of 442,000 job opportunities, technology transfer, rapid local economic growth and tourism
Najib also said he was surprised when Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that Malaysia would not get any profit out of the HSR project, and would have to pay RM500 million in compensation to Singapore for cancelling it.
“He should be responsible in terms of carrying out detailed studies, and providing a comprehensive explanation to the people and investors about the cost analysis and the benefits of the project as a whole,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page today.