PETALING JAYA: The Cabinet has yet to decide whether to exclude Singapore from the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project and will soon be discussing the merits of doing so, according to a well-placed source.
Speaking to FMT, he confirmed a report that the idea of making the rail line stop at Johor Bahru had been mooted.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, held a discussion on the HSR on Wednesday, ahead of the Dec 31 deadline for the final suspension of the project.
“Studies related to the HSR project were done some six years ago and a lot has changed since then,” said the source.
He claimed that some ministers doubted that the project would be as beneficial to Malaysia as imagined.
“Full-service airlines will prefer to use Changi Airport over KLIA as a hub for connectivity to Malaysia, while Malaysians and foreigners alike will use the HSR for international connectivity rather than KLIA,” he said. “This could see airlines not choosing to fly to KLIA.”
He noted that a breach of the HSR agreement with Singapore would cost Malaysia about RM320 million in compensation.
But he said it would be better in the long run to pay the compensation as Singapore had more to gain from the HSR than Malaysia.
“It’s better to lose over RM300 million now than RM3 billion in the future.”
He said there might not be any need to construct a HSR and Malaysia could consider a different kind of rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.
“It doesn’t have to be a typical high-speed train like (the one) in Japan. What is important is that it is fast and electrified and suits Malaysia’s interests rather than Singapore’s.”
He said Putrajaya would continue to research the matter and rationalise the need to rush into the project.
“We are in a tight fiscal position because of Covid-19,” he said. “So this is the right time to review the original proposal.”