Malaysia is in discussion with Singapore to expedite the revival of the aborted Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project at the earliest date, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Aug. 22.
Ismail told Bernama and other media that Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong is in discussion with his Singaporean counterpart, S. Iswaran.
Some changes can be expected if the project is ultimately revived, he added.
"If possible, we want it to be speeded up because Malaysia also has plans to establish HSR between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok," Ismail said, according to Bernama.
The railway could go up to China, with China and Thailand also establishing their own high-speed train line.
The 350km HSR, supposed to be completed in 2026, was to have seven stations and connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with a 90-minute ride.
It takes more than four hours by car now.
Ismail also said on Monday that the Malaysian government is looking into the need for a third link between Johor and Singapore.
He said: "It is still at the planning stages; we will see if there is a need for it."
In response to this development, a Singapore transport ministry spokesperson said: "Singapore is willing to discuss any new proposal for a Kuala Lumpur–Singapore high-speed rail from Malaysia in good faith, starting from a clean slate. We await details of a new proposal from Malaysia."
Background on HSR talks
Malaysia and Singapore signed a legally binding bilateral agreement on the HSR project in December 2016.
The signing was witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and then Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The project was suspended at Malaysia's request, after the May 2018 General Election saw a change in the Malaysian government.
It was a whirlwind back-and-forth process after that.
In September 2018, an agreement was reached to suspend the project for about two years.
Malaysia reimbursed Singapore S$15 million for costs incurred by the deferment.
On May 31, 2020, Malaysia requested to further suspend the HSR project for seven more months till Dec. 31.
Malaysia proposed changes in November 2020, and Singapore discussed them.
The project was terminated by the final deadline of Dec. 31 after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on those changes.
In January 2021, it was announced that Malaysia had to compensate Singapore.
Singapore had by then spent about S$270 million on the project.
Malaysia paid about S$102 million as compensation.
A joint statement in March 2021 said both countries had reached an "amicable agreement".
In November 2021, PM Lee revealed Ismail had suggested reviving the HSR and Singapore was open to fresh proposals.
In May 2022, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Malaysia is exploring "some new ideas".
Top photo via Meinhardt Singapore