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Johor chief minister welcomes KL’s call for new HSR talks with S'pore, says they should ‘start from scratch’

JOHOR BARU — The Johor government on Tuesday (Nov 30) welcomed the Malaysian federal government’s bid to revive the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, which both sides had terminated earlier this year.

An artistic impression of the cancelled HSR terminus in Jurong East by Farrells.

An artistic impression of the cancelled HSR terminus in Jurong East by Farrells.

JOHOR BARU — The Johor government on Tuesday (Nov 30) welcomed the Malaysian federal government’s bid to revive the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, which both sides had terminated earlier this year.

Johor’s chief minister Hasni Mohammad said discussions need to start from the beginning as it will be a new agreement and not a review or amendment of the previous agreement.

Mr Hasni added that Johor will support all measures and efforts that touch on the development of the proposed HSR, regardless of whether the last station stops in Johor or in Singapore.

“We will take full advantage of the opportunities available when the HSR is developed as most of the line would be in the state, and this would benefit the people and its economy,” Mr Hasni told reporters after handing over contributions to the Johor Cerebral Palsy Association at its premises on Tuesday.

"But with the previous HSR project cancelled, the discussion needs to start from scratch, not review the old agreement or make any amendments to it as it should be a completely new agreement," he said.

He also expressed hopes that there won’t be any political impediment to the new HSR project.

"I hope that the political situation in this country remains stable and no one will 'push the (stop) button' so our country can move forward," he said.

Mr Hasni noted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s positive response when Mr Ismail Sabri Yaakob raised the HSR issue again in his first official visit to the republic since becoming prime minister.

“The transport ministries of the two countries would discuss the matter, and Singapore hoped to receive more details from Malaysia on it,” said Mr Hasni, who is also the Benut assemblyman and a member of Mr Ismail Sabri's United Malays National Organisation party.

On Monday, Mr Lee said Singapore was open to accepting Malaysia’s new proposal to build the high-speed rail line between the two countries.

On Jan 1, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the HSR project when the two countries failed to reach an agreement on Malaysia’s proposed changes before the project agreement expired on Dec 31, 2020.

Two months later, Malaysia announced a compensation payout of RM320,270,519.24 (S$104 million) to Singapore for costs incurred for the development of the HSR project and in connection with the extension of its postponement.

Former Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng had on Tuesday Malaysia has become a global laughing stock for suggesting the revival of the HSR after paying Singapore RM320 million to terminate it. 

On Tuesday, Mr Hasni also touched on the launch of the land Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia, noting that it will be a guide for the opening of more categories of travellers between Malaysia and Singapore.

He said among the positive impact of the VTL opening, especially for the land sector, was the opportunity to visit the Republic and see the commitment of the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to ensure the smooth reopening of the border between the two countries.

“The Johor government hopes that the category of travellers that will be allowed to cross the border can be added and not only limited to long-term travel pass holders or citizens of both countries returning to their countries of origin.

“These are all indications that the opening of the border will be further enhanced in the near future,” he said.

On another matter, Mr Hasni also said he hopes that the newly detected Covid-19 variant from South Africa named Omicron will not hamper the VTL routes as both Malaysia and Singapore have just loosened their border restrictions.

He expressed confidence that both countries will be able to manage and maintain daily travellers back to pre-pandemic figures. MALAY MAIL

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HSR Malaysia Ismail Sabri Lee Hsien Loong

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