Singapore's Ministry of Transport said on Monday (May 28) it has not received any official notification from Malaysia on its plans to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project.
Malaysia is haggling over the terms of a $14 billion rail deal with its Chinese partners and can reduce its ballooning national debts by $50 billion by doing away with mega projects, its prime minister said in an interview published on Saturday.
We have entered into an agreement with Singapore.
The 350 km HSR project - with the Singapore portion covering 15 km - was scheduled to be completed by 2026.
"It's not beneficial, it's going to cost us a huge sum of money".
Rail firms from China, Japan and South Korea had expressed interest in bidding for the project.
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Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would discuss the matter with Singapore soon with the aim of handling the project cancellation in a "least-cost manner".
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong to build the rail link to trim the land journey between the two Southeast Asian cities to 90 minutes, from about five hours now.
But he added that the government would now have to negotiate with Singapore. "We have to talk with Singapore about dropping that project", he said. Alongside the HSR, former prime minister Najib also planned to launch the East Coast Rail Link project, with a contract value of RM60 billion (S$20 billion).
The Prime Minister said that the government had to talk to Singapore about it and the compensation that needed to be paid.
He estimated that Malaysia could cut nearly a fifth of its US$250 billion national debt and liabilities by scrapping such big projects.
Mr Mahathir's government is faced with liabilities that exceed 1 trillion ringgit due to state guarantees on borrowing by an investment company that's at the centre of a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal. That's almost double the 687 billion ringgit federal government debt number disclosed by the former administration.