June 1, 2018 / 11:41 AM / 2 months ago

Singapore seeks clarification from Malaysia on high-speed rail link

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has requested clarification regarding Malaysia’s position on a high-speed rail link between the two countries, a minister in the wealthy city-state said on Friday, following media reports its neighbor had decided to cancel the plan.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad this week said he was cancelling the project to link the capital, Kuala Lumpur, with Singapore. He said Malaysia would talk to its southern neighbor about any compensation it had to pay.

“We have informed the Malaysian government that Singapore is continuing to incur costs on this project as it awaits Malaysia’s clarification,” said Singapore transport minister Khaw Boon Wan.

If Malaysia terminated the project, Singapore would study the implications and exercise its rights, including any right to compensation for expenses incurred, under their agreement, he said in a statement.

“We still believe that a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur would be in our mutual interest, economically, as well as in terms of the friendship and mutual understanding of our two peoples,” he added.

While Singapore continued to support the project, it would only be tenable if Malaysia was also supportive and willing to fulfil its end of the agreement, added Khaw, who is also the coordinating minister for infrastructure.

On Friday, Malaysia’s finance minister said the project was terminated for now, but could be revisited in the future.

The project, valued by analysts at about $17 billion and set to have been completed by 2026, would have cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to about 90 minutes from four or five hours by road now.

Mahathir estimates Malaysia could cut almost a fifth of its $250-billion national debt and liabilities by scrapping such big projects.

($1=3.9770 ringgit)

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Additional reporting by A.Ananthalakshmi in KUALA LUMPUR; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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