Finally closer to making a decision on HSR, “soon”, says Khaw Boon Wan

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

On Thursday, August 30, Singapore’s Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan sat down with Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali. One of the outcomes of the meeting is an announcement that decisions regarding the high speed rail (HSR) between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur as well as the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) are coming “soon.”

The transport minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure posted on his Facebook page that he and Mr. Azmin had been “brainstorming ideas on how to further our bilateral relationship,” and, perhaps more importantly, he wrote, “We should be able to announce our joint decisions on RTS and HSR soon.”

Likewise, the Malaysian minister also posted a photo of his meeting with Mr. Khaw on his Facebook page, with the caption, “Further talks with Minister Khaw. We are inching closer to a win-win deal on HSR, thanks to the hardwork of officials from both sides.”

The meeting between the two ministers today came on the heels of another meeting in Putrahjaya, Kuala Lumpur, last week to discuss the future of the disputed high speed rail, a project whose outcome has been in question ever since Dr. Mahathir was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia a few months ago, in May.

Regarding last week’s meeting, Mr. Ali described it in a post as “a thorough and detailed discussion” wherein both parties were “optimistic of a win-win resolution soon.”

Dr. Mahathir said when he was newly elected that the Pakatan Harapan government would no longer continue the planned high speed railway between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which is supposed to start operations in eight years’ time, at the end of 2026.

A short while later, the government in Malaysia announced that it would merely seek a delay in building the HSR and open talks with the government of Singapore.

Moreover, the RTS, which stretches for 4 kilometers between Woodlands North and Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru, is scheduled to begin operations by the last quarter of 2024. This scheduled opening is now in question, because a deadline on June 30 for a joint venture company between Malaysia’s national rail operator Prasarana Malaysia and Singapore’s SMRT to incorporate was not met.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also met with Mr. Azmin on the morning of August 30. Mr. Azmin posted that he and Mr. Balakrishnan had a “productive and frank exchange of views on a broad range of matters including geopolitical concerns. Discussed how best to take bilateral ties to the next level.”