The Jurong Gateway project breathed a sigh of relief after Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, made a u-turn on HSR project. Dr Mahathir confirmed the u-turn – that the project was temporarily delayed (not scrapped) – in an interview to Nikkei Asian Review.
He added: “There will be a need for a HSR in the future, probably right through the peninsula. But we cannot afford it at this moment. So, we actually postponed the implementation of the project.”
Dr Mahathir’s confirmation comes after the Malaysian Finance Minister said a few days ago that the HSR project may be revived sometime in the future if the price is right.
The news that the Malaysian Government has scrapped the HSR (high speed rail) project rocked the property market sentiments built around the Jurong Lake District area. Some experts suggested that the decision by the Malaysian Government could leave a ‘hole’ in Jurong Lake District area.
Dr Mahathir made the u-turn when the Japanese publication asked him if his government would reconsider the HSR project if it was scaled down. He said that the estimated price tag of $37 billion (RM110 billion) was the road block for the successful completion of the project, especially when stacked up against the huge federal debt of more than RM1 trillion ($337.9 billion).
Dr Mahathir’s reply was similar to Mr Lim’s who said a few days ago that the HR project can be “so much cheaper.” He added that “if the financial architecture is done right, it doesn’t need to cost so much.”
“If you work out the financial architecture, I think we can get it (Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project) so much cheaper. With the Bandar Malaysia land and all that…but I don’t want to reveal too much.” – Lim Eng Guan
Dr Mahathir further noted that “high-speed trains are most effective where the distance is very long. But where the distance is short, it doesn’t contribute much. So we need to rethink HSR. We cannot say we will never have HSR in Malaysia.”
Mr Lim along with Malaysia’s Transport Minister and Economic Affairs Minister are all set to meet their Singapore counterparts to discuss the HSR project. The Malaysian government leaders’ assurance that the HSR project can be revisited in the future, has now caused some to breathe a sigh of relief.
In December 2016, Singapore and Malaysia signed an agreement to build a multi-billion dollar, 350km high-speed rail link between the two countries. The HSR project has been a shot in the arm for developments in and around the Jurong Lake District area.
Even though it is still unclear if the HSR project will be derailed by the Malaysian government, those that have bought properties in the area (or are looking to buy one there soon), need not be overly concerned that prices of their properties will plummet if the plug is pulled from the HSR project.
This is because even if the HSR project is expected to deliver higher property prices and rev up commercial and retail activity in the Jurong Lake District area, the developments in the area itself is hinged on the Singapore Government’s blueprint for the Jurong Lake District, which was first unveiled in the 2008 Master Plan when the area was earmarked as a new growth area.
There is now some 160 hectares of land that is yet to be developed within the 360-hectare district. More than 40 per cent of the mixed-use business area is set aside for residential purposes. Developments for the Jurong Lake District are centered around the Jurong East MRT station. With established businesses around the MRT station – like the International business park, IMM (a major shopping mall), along with other new shopping malls, a hospital, educational hubs, high rise offices and residential units – Jurong Lake District is looking very credible as a regional centre even without the HSR project.
According to the URA’s Masterplan, most of the developments will be centred around Jurong Gateway for a start.
Jurong Gateway is also most likely to be the crown jewel in the Jurong Lake District vicinity. With a catchment consumer base of Jurong East HDB dwellers and the Lakeside village (a designated dining place) the Jurong Lake District is likely to be developed fast and find success quickly.
Good tenants at Lakeside village may bring people closer to enjoying the lakeside. Lakeside village is connected via bridges to Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden, bringing lakeside enjoyment to the residents staying nearby.
Jurong Gateway project which includes developments along Yuan Ching Road are yet to be developed, but once this area develops with waterfront hotels, it would revitalize the area and possibly lead the Jurong Lake District to become a reality much sooner – in 5 – 7 years time. Some HDB flats around Ho Ching road area in the Jurong Lake District are built in 1972 and are ripe for selective en-bloc redevelopment, at 42 years old.
Besides, the stakeholders in the Jurong Gateway are also expected to get a boost from the announcement of the seventh MRT line – the Jurong Region Line.
The new line will serve the Jurong area and the western part of Singapore and is expected to lift the fortunes of not just the properties in the Jurong Lake District area, but also the real estate in Boon Lay and Choa Chu Kang.
The Jurong Region Line will be 24km long with 24 stations, and will run above-ground. It will open in three phases, starting from 2026. The Jurong Region Line will give commuters route choices especially for stakeholders in the Jurong Gatewayproject . For example, the two interchange stations at Choa Chu Kang and Boon Lay will connect the North-South Line (NSL) and East-West Line (EWL), giving commuters alternative travel routes.
So what’s driving the interest in the Jurong Lake District area is not necessarily the HSR project, but the successful transformation resulting from the Jurong Gateway initiative. The HSR project, if it takes off, will only be a nice bonus to the buyers of property in that area.
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