The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) as we know it today was discussed and proposed during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat on 24 May 2010 as part of the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement Supplement 2010, targeted to be operational by 2020. This includes the reverting of Malaysian KTM land in Singapore back to Singapore’s ownership. Thereafter Malaysia may consider to relocate the KTMB Station from Woodlands to Johor.
On 1 January 2021, Malaysia and Singapore announced in a joint statement that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) has been terminated, after both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia by the final extension deadline of 31 December 2020.
Malaysia had allowed the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Bilateral Agreement (BA) signed on 19 July 2016 to be terminated, and will have to compensate Singapore for costs already incurred, in accordance with the HSR BA.
24 May 2010: The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) was discussed and proposed during the the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat as part of the Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement Supplement 2010, targeted to be operational by 2020. This includes the reverting of Malaysian KTM land in Singapore back to Singapore’s ownership. Thereafter Malaysia may consider to relocate the KTMB Station from Woodlands to Johor.
19 February 2013: Then-Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak and Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong formally agreed to go ahead with the HSR project. At the meeting, it was announced that the high-speed rail proposal would be finalised by end of 2014 with a targeted completion date of 2020.
7 April 2014: During the Leaders’ Retreat, the possible locations for the high-speed rail terminus in Singapore was narrowed down to Tuas West, Jurong East or the Downtown Core.
6 February 2015: The Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) released a press statement stating that Singapore had announced Jurong East as the final location for the high-speed rail terminus. However, the terminus would not be connected to the Jurong East MRT Station.
19 July 2016: Singapore and Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding witnessed by both then-Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak and Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong. It was signed by then-Singapore Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan and then-Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan. This includes the border crossing of the HSR via a 25-metre-high bridge link near the Malaysia–Singapore Second Link, and three train service patterns to be operated by two operators. This was the same meeting that the leaders agreed on technical details for the Johor Bahru–Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) link.
31 December 2016: Jurong Country Club closed to make way for the Jurong East terminus of the HSR and new surrounding developments.
16 February 2017: LTA and MyHSR awarded the HSR joint development partner (JDP) contract to a consortium comprising WSP Engineering Malaysia, Mott MacDonald Malaysia and Ernst & Young Advisory Services to provide management support, technical advice on systems and operations, develop safety standards and help prepare tender documents for the joint project team of LTA and MyHSR. In the same month, it announced that the Singapore terminus would be designed by British architecture firm Farrells.
17 October 2017: Then-Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak announced that the land acquisition process has begun in Malaysia for the HSR project and also the station designs.
5 April 2018: MyHSR Corp announced a consortium of Malaysian Resources and Gamuda will build the northern part, and a consortium of Syarikat Pembenaan Yeoh Tiong Lay and TH Properties the southern part of the HSR. The tender process for the Singapore tunnel sections was started in April 2018 with the start of construction expected in 2019.
During campaigning, the former Prime Minister and Opposition leader, Dr Mahathir Mohamad threatened to cancel or at least delay the HSR project if he won the 14th Malaysian general election.
28 May 2018: Mahathir confirmed that Malaysia will scrap the HSR project, citing its high construction costs and downplaying its benefits. Singapore’s Ministry of Transport did not receive an official notification that the project had been cancelled.
12 June 2018: During an official visit to Japan, Mahathir mentioned that the HSR project was only postponed until Malaysia was in better financial conditions.
Suggested revisions to reduce the HSR project costs include upgrading and re-gauging the existing meter gauge Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) line to allow new trains to run at 200 km/h, with a new branch line to Jurong East so that bilateral agreement is “not violated”.
(RailTravel Station’s note: This upgrading and re-gauging idea would only classify the new train service as Higher-Speed Rail (HrSR) and not High-Speed Rail (HSR). There would thus technically be no HSR with this idea – a fundamental issue in the bilateral agreement.)
31 July 2018: Raffles Country Club closed (146 hectares) to make way for the HSR tunnel portal from the 25-metre-high bridge link near the Malaysia–Singapore Second Link to Jurong East terminus and the future Cross Island Line’s (CRL) western depot. (On 17 April 2020, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the new Integrated Train Testing Centre (ITTC) (50 hectares) to be located at the former Raffles Country Club site.)
5 September 2018: Singapore and Malaysia formally agreed to postpone the construction of the HSR project until 31 May 2020, with Malaysia having to pay Singapore S$15 million for abortive costs incurred by the deferment of the HSR project.
In a joint statement, Singapore and Malaysia also announced that the HSR express service is now expected to commence by Jan 1, 2031, four years later than the second-announced start date of Dec 31, 2026. A new agreement was then signed by Malaysia’s then-Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali and then-Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya.
31 January 2019: Malaysia remitted S$15 million in abortive costs to Singapore.
17 April 2020: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the new Integrated Train Testing Centre (ITTC) (50 hectares) to be located at the former Raffles Country Club site.
29 May 2020: Singapore was considering a request by the Malaysian government to extend the suspension of the HSR project. Malaysia asked to extend the suspension period to allow both sides to discuss the changes they have in mind.
31 May 2020: Then-Singapore Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that Singapore had agreed to the HSR project suspension until 31 December 2020. This will be the final suspension of the HSR project.
25 November 2020: Free Malaysia Today reported that two unidentified but well-placed sources revealed that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project is expected to resume without Singapore’s participation, and will terminate in in Johor Bahru instead of Singapore.
26 November 2020: Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) confirms that Malaysia has proposed some changes to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, and Singapore has been discussing them in good faith with Malaysia. The MOT spokesman told The Straits Times: “Singapore continues to believe that the HSR project is beneficial for both countries, and remains fully committed to fulfilling our obligations under the HSR bilateral agreement. We will make our best efforts to conclude discussions with Malaysia by Dec 31, 2020.” The spokesman said that if, by Dec 31, Malaysia does not proceed with the project, “under our agreements with Malaysia, Malaysia will bear the agreed costs incurred by Singapore in fulfilling the HSR bilateral agreement”.
27 November 2020: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Mustapa Mohamed said Malaysia is negotiating with Singapore on proposals made by Malaysia to improve the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project. Mustapa, also known as Tok Pa, said the two countries had until Dec 31 to complete the negotiation process.
2 December 2020: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had a discussion over video conference on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, taking stock of the progress of discussions on the project, and gained a “good understanding of Malaysia’s and Singapore’s respective positions”.
4 December 2020: Free Malaysia Today reported that the Malaysian Cabinet has yet to decide whether to exclude Singapore from the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project and will soon be discussing the merits of doing so, citing unknown sources claiming that some ministers doubted that the project would be “as beneficial to Malaysia as imagined”, including passengers choosing to fly in and out of Malaysia using Singapore Changi Airport rather than Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
It was also cited from the unknown source that a breach of the HSR agreement with Singapore would cost Malaysia about RM320 million in compensation (which differs from S$250 million cited in 2018), and it would be better in the long run to pay the compensation to Singapore as Singapore “had more to gain from the HSR than Malaysia”.
The proposed KL-JB HSR may also not materialize as a HSR, and Malaysia could consider a different kind of rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru as long as “it is fast and electrified and suits Malaysia’s interests rather than Singapore’s”. This is despite the KL-JB ETS service coming to reality in the future with the good progress of the Gemas-Johor Bahru EDTP rapidly taking shape.
14 December 2020: The Straits Times cited a The Malaysian Insight (TMI) article that Malaysia is planning to continue the project without Singapore’s involvement, and ending the HSR line from Kuala Lumpur in Johor (sic) and not Jurong East. It is said that Malaysia will need to compensate Singapore with a payment of S$104.67 million by 31 December 2020, which is less than half of the S$250 million cited last month by Free Malaysia Today that Singapore would seek as the price to drop the deal.
16 December 2020: RHB Research made a rather obvious statement that the Malaysian government is likely to make an announcement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) “by year-end”. It also specifies the compensation of RM300 million to Singapore, the Johor Bahru terminus at Bukit Chagar which is the connection to the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS Link), the two direct and transit HSR lines from KL to JB, the omission of Iskandar Puteri station, and the Putrajaya station which may be located at KL International Airport (KLIA).
31 December 2020 (Deadline of the final suspension of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project): There was no news pertaining to the progress of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).
1 January 2021: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced this in a joint statement that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project has been terminated, after both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia.
The statement said that the Malaysian Government had proposed several changes to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project in the light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Malaysian economy. This is despite the HSR project being proposed first on 24 May 2010, 10 years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard.
The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Bilateral Agreement (BA) has now been terminated as of 1 January 2021, and Malaysia has to compensate Singapore for costs already incurred by Singapore in fulfilling its obligations under the HSR BA in accordance with the Parties’ agreement. The statement did not specify the exact amount that Malaysia has to compensate Singapore yet.
(RailTravel Station’s note: If the HSR project is ultimately cancelled on 1 January 2021, Singapore would have to recover at least S$250 million (2018 figures) from Malaysia for costs incurred in accordance with the bilateral agreement and with international law.)