(June 1): Singapore and Malaysia agreed to delay until the end of 2020 work on a railway that would connect the city-state to Kuala Lumpur, extending a postponement of a project that was unveiled seven years ago.
The two countries will resume talks on proposed changes to the multibillion-dollar project’s commercial and technical sides in the near future, Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s senior minister of international trade and industry, said in a statement. He gave no reason for the extended delay. Construction was previously delayed until the end of May.
“This should provide sufficient time for Malaysia to clarify its proposal and for both sides to assess the implications of the proposed changes,” said Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a Facebook post.
The project has been on hold since Malaysia went through a change of government two years ago that saw the ouster of former leader Najib Razak, who first unveiled plans for the railway in 2013. The administration of Mahathir Mohamad at the time sought to cancel the project as the country grappled with debt and liabilities amounting to more than 1 trillion ringgit ($230 billion), before settling for a deferment and a $15 million compensation fee to Singapore.
Mahathir, who resigned earlier this year, had estimated the project to cost 110 billion ringgit for Malaysia.
The high-speed rail was initially planned to stretch for 350 kilometres, with trains moving at a top speed of more than 300 kilometres an hour. That would trim the journey between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes, from about five hours.