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Mahathir: No need for HSR to Singapore right now

CYBERJAYA: Malaysia does not feel that a high-speed rail (HSR) system is necessary for now, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Prime Minister said the country's main focus now would be to improve its existing rail system through electrification and double-tracking.

"At the moment, a high-speed rail is not too necessary, especially if it is just between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

"So we won't build the HSR just yet.

"That can be done, and has been done to some extent by double-tracking and electrification.

"Electrification also does not pollute the environment and, at the same time, allows us to travel at high speed.

"With double-tracking on our railways, this will allow trains to pass each other without having to stop," said Dr Mahathir yesterday.

He also spoke about the possibility of an HSR from Johor Baru all the way to Penang.

He said this was not discussed with Singapore, adding the arrangement between the two countries was for the service to be between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia had previously requested the HSR between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore be deferred because of cost constraints.

Last September, the neighbours agreed to the deferment till May 2020, and Malaysia has reimbursed Singapore $15 million for abortive costs incurred by the delay.

At a retreat last week, Dr Mahathir and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that Malaysia is exploring the possible way forward, with the aim of cost reduction.

Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan government has been looking to cut its expenditure by either delaying or cancelling mega-projects brokered by the previous Barisan Nasional government, citing the national debt having surpassed RM1 trillion (S$330 billion).

Dr Mahathir's comments yesterday come after Malaysia and China last week agreed on a deal that would lower the cost of building the 640km East Coast Rail Link to RM44 billion.

The two sides agreed to a 50-50 joint venture to operate the line across Peninsular Malaysia. - THE STAR, THE STRAITS TIMES

WORLD