The recently cancelled Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) megaproject was proposed to link our nation’s capital with the richest Southeast Asian nation island down south, Singapore. This aborted mode of transportation was first proposed by the former Prime Minister Najib Razak back in 2010 and was expected to be finished by 2026 engrossing about RM 40 billion or SGD 13 billion once completed. However, this entry point project to the Greater Kuala Lumpur was shelved in 2018 when Pakatan Harapan coalition took control over Putrajaya in the 13th Malaysian General Election (GE13) and unexpectedly – which shocked the entire nation, the HSR project was forfeited early this year by the new administration, the Perikatan Nasional government on January 1st, 2021. RM 1 billion is estimated to be compensated to the Singaporean government for cost incurred after the initial agreement was made.
HSR purely aims to cater seamless travel services (the KL-Singapore direct express, one-stop service from Iskandar Puteri-Singapore and an interstate service stopping at seven stations). Notwithstanding, reducing travel time between two iconic cities to only 90 minutes rather than the usual 4 hours’ drive or commute. Presumably, a national game-changer due to not only being the first ASEAN country to operate its first Shinkansen (bullet train) but also providing bilateral job opportunities to Malaysians mainly in services and industrialization sectors. Speaking of the latter, the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail project will generate 70,000 local jobs (18,000 professionals, 48,000 semi-skilled workers and 4,000 HSR-specifics talents) which will enhance and supply more jobs of our oversupplied number of engineers and create an opportunity for Malaysia to position ourselves as a regional industry hub in HSR construction sector.
A research study regarding economic impacts had been carried out by the Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) shows that service sector will bloom like wildflowers with significant gain in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution. All participating states that are connected via HSR stations were forecasted to boost their socio-economic developments in 2030 with Johor being the most impactful (RM 2.8 billion) – potentially called the Greater Johor Bahru followed by Kuala Lumpur and Selangor with RM 1.6 billion and RM 1.2 billion, respectively. With a crystal-clear conscience, HSR will intensify Malaysia’s GDP in the long run by expanding the development of these southern states for the next decade although pricey project cost was narrated as primary reason for its tombstone.
The cancellation of HSR project had affected tremendously towards property development landscapes that wish to tap the potential of the mega transport endeavour; for example, Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, and Vision Valley (encompassing Seremban, Nilai and Port Dickson) as both were originally outlined to be integrated with HSR stations. Presently, countless of speculations being made concerning HSR stature whether the project is unconditionally scrapped, removing Singapore completely out of the picture and focusing domestic rail coverage or downgrading to a medium speed rail system – which ultimately saves only a small chunk of money at the end of the day according to experts.
We are supposedly one step closer to Japan in diversifying and widening our public transport accessibility, yet two steps backwards without even realizing it – as we are caught up by deeply entrenched game of self-interests.
Khairul Shamir Iqwan
PUTRA Centre for Social Studies