Mahathir: Reviving high speed rail with S'pore a waste, signals revival of corruption in politics

Fighting words.

Belmont Lay | December 08, 2021, 02:14 PM

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Former Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has poured cold water on the idea of reviving the high-speed rail (HSR) project with Singapore.

The former two-time prime minister said it will be a waste of resources to build the line as it only covers a relatively short distance, and that this was still not the right time to do so.

He made his comments on the topic on Dec. 7 during a virtual discussion with the media, Malaysian media Malaysiakini and Malay Mail reported.

Compensation already paid

Mahathir, 96, also claimed that Singapore demanded compensation for the HSR that eventually fell through.

And having paid the hefty compensation of RM320 million (S$102.8 million) to Singapore has already set Malaysia back, Mahathir was reported as saying.

HSR line too short

He added after some thought that the HSR may not actually be needed in Malaysia as it covers a span of 200km only.

Mahathir said: “If you want to make the HSR popular, it must go a further distance. If it is a short distance, the time saved is very minimal. If you’re going to travel only 200km, that’s not much time that you save."

“So, why should people travel on an expensive train when they can travel by road or by other trains? When you want a HSR, it should go a long distance, say from Singapore to Penang, or Alor Setar, or the border of Thailand.”

Given such considerations regarding its utility, Mahathir went as far as to say that the revival of the high-speed rail also signals the revival of corruption in politics.

According to The Straits Times, asked if the proposal to revive the HSR meant a revival of corruption politics, Mahathir replied: "It is."

Malaysians prefer to drive

Mahathir also claimed that Malaysians prefer driving in the country when going long distances, as compared to taking the train.

He added that the current government needs to weigh the usefulness of the HSR with the needs of the country.

“If you find that the country does not need it yet, then don’t do it. The HSR is going to travel within Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It’s a very short distance, not much time saved."

He added that there are alternatives galore when it comes to travel with Singapore.

He added: “You can also fly, drive, so this is a very big investment.”


Mahathir's comments comes over a week after current Malaysia prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob proposed reviving the project that was scrapped by his predecessor, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

On Jan. 1, 2021, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the HSR project as both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia before the project agreement lapsed on Dec. 31, 2020.

Later in March, Malaysia announced that it had paid S$102.8 million (RM318.45 million) to Singapore for costs incurred for the development of the HSR project and in relation to the extension of its suspension.

Top photo via Mahathir Mohamad’s Office

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