S'pore, KL still in talks to defer high-speed rail project: MOT

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Malaysian minister says project to be postponed with no compensation, while Singapore hopes to reach a 'mutually acceptable outcome' soon

Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said yesterday that an agreement had been reached to postpone the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project without compensation, and that the project would resume once the deferral ends.

However, a Singapore Ministry of Transport spokesman said that discussions are still ongoing.

Responding to media queries on Mr Azmin's remarks, she said: "Malaysia and Singapore are currently in discussions on Malaysia's request to defer the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project."

"We hope to reach a mutually acceptable outcome soon," the spokesman added.

Mr Azmin was in Singapore last week for discussions on the subject with Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.

"We should be able to announce our joint decisions on RTS and HSR soon," Mr Khaw had said in a Facebook post on Aug 30, referring also to the Rapid Transit System between Johor Baru and Woodlands.

Mr Azmin had also said on Facebook after their meeting: "We are inching closer to a win-win deal on HSR, thanks to the hard work of officials from both sides."

But over the weekend, business publication The Edge reported that the two countries had struck an accord to defer the HSR project, with the agreement expected to be formally announced this week.

The compromise, reached "in a spirit of good neighbourliness", will see Malaysia being spared having to pay a RM500 million (S$166 million) penalty for postponing the project, the publication reported in its issue yesterday, citing sources.

According to The Edge, the 350km line will be deferred for two years, until May 31, 2020.

Yesterday, Mr Azmin told reporters that the consensus with his Singapore counterpart was reached last week , and that an official agreement would be signed in the near future in Kuala Lumpur.

"After several discussions, the Singapore government has agreed to accept the views of the Malaysian government to defer the project for a period where we are confident that the Malaysian economy would improve by then," Mr Azmin told reporters .

"There will be no compensation to be paid during this deferment period and it has to be paid only if we cancel this project at the end of the deferment period," he added.

Mr Azmin said the project delay timeline would be announced only at a later date.

"We want to continue this project because it gives economic benefit to both countries and the people. But in that period of postponement, we will discuss how to lower the project cost," he said.