ASIA: An agreement to delay construction of the planned 350 km Kuala Lumpur – Singapore high speed rail line by up to five years was signed by representatives of the governments of Malaysia and Singapore on September 5.

The project is one of several approved by the previous Malaysian government which the new administration put under review following the general election in May.

In a joint statement, the two governments said they were ‘committed’ to the high speed line project. However, ‘at Malaysia’s request and in the spirit of bilateral co-operation’ Singapore had agreed to suspend construction ‘for a period up to’ May 31 2020. Malaysia will bear the costs of suspending the project, reported to be around S$15m.

The proposed completion date has been put back from December 31 2026 to January 1 2031.

Because of the length of this delay, the national high speed rail project promoters SG HSR and MyHSR Corp are to call off their joint tender to appoint an assets company which would be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the rolling stock and railway systems including track, electrification, signalling and telecoms.

MyHSR Corp said it was ‘thankful for the participation from global high speed rail players as well as local entities in the AssetsCo tender and looks forward to engaging them again once the project details are firmed up.’

The two countries will continue to discuss on the best way forward, with the aim of reducing costs. If Malaysia does not proceed with the project by May 31 2020, it would bear the costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the bilateral agreement for the project which had been signed by the prime minsters in December 2016.