The long-delayed High Speed Rail (HSR) project will proceed, albeit without Singapore in the picture, according to a source quoted by The Malaysian Insight. Malaysia will be paying the city-state RM300 million in compensation, the report said.

In June, trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said at the time that both countries agreed to extend the deferment of the KL-Singapore HSR project to December 31, 2020, also adding at the time that both governments agreed to resume discussions on the HSR infrastructure with proposed changes.

At the time, termination of the HSR project meant Malaysia would have had to compensate Singapore for RM500 million in project implementation costs.

Two years ago, a much cheaper alternative to the HSR was mooted, and this proposed an upgrade to existing rail infrastructure instead of the HSR’s approach of building a new line from scratch. This more affordable alternative was then estimated to cost the Malaysian government RM20 billion, a far lower sum than the HSR’s estimated cost of between RM60 billion to RM70 billion.

A RM50 billion cheaper alternative was mooted in 2018

The proposed use of KTM’s existing infrastructure would have seen a slower 130-minute journey from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, compared to the HSR’s time of 90 minutes between points, with the cheaper alternative reaching a top speed of 200 km/h instead of the HSR’s 320 km/h.

The prime minister’s office said on December 2 that Malaysian prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong had taken stock of the progress of discussions, and gained a good understanding of each country’s positions, Bernama reported.

“Muhyiddin and Lee Hsien Loong had a video conference call [on Dec 2] on the HSR project, in view of the Dec 31, 2020 deadline for the second and final extension of the suspension of the project. Both prime ministers also reaffirmed the strong bilateral relations between the two countries, covering many areas of cooperation, and the sincere desire to further strengthen these relations for mutual benefit,” the joint statement said at the time.

First signed in December 2016, the HSR was initially planned as a 350 km route comprising 335 km in Malaysia and 15 km in Singapore. This was to have comprised of eight stops – Singapore, Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh, Seremban, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, while a bridge over the Straits of Johor would have linked the two countries.