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By Nor Baizura Basri
JOHOR BAHRU, Jan 1 -- The termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, which was announced by both governments today, is viewed as the best move following the assessments made by the two parties.
Ts Dr Joewono Prasetio, head of the Industry Centre of Excellence for Railway (ICoE-Rel) at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia’s Institute of Integrated Engineering, said the Malaysian government’s decision was for the best given that the country faced global economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously the government has considered various aspects from all angles... resulting in the best possible decision," he told Bernama here today.
According to him, the project’s termination means the cancellation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore alignment but it may possibly be revived with a different alignment.
Therefore, he said, Malaysia would still have an opportunity to learn and secure new technology through advanced rail technology transfer should a new alignment be proposed although this may not happen in the near future.
Joewono also said the termination was not expected to have a significant impact on the public transportation system in Johor or other states as many options were available to go to the island republic from Kuala Lumpur.
“Even if a new route is proposed to Johor Bahru, we will still have continuity with the Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) and Gemas-Johor Bahru Electrified Double-Tracking Project, which are ongoing,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr L. Nanthakumar, associate professor at the Azman Hashim International Business School, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said the HSR project’s cancellation would reduce the country’s developmental cost burden amid the uncertain domestic and global economic situation.
This, he said, demonstrated that the government was more concerned about the people’s welfare and in helping the needy.
Besides, Johor was expected to receive minimum impact in terms of transportation given that there were good overland alternatives, he said.
Nonetheless, he anticipated a reduction in direct domestic investment into Johor and that companies investing in the state would also be affected as a result of the termination.
“Johor’s programmes and development policy may need to face this reality. The state’s image as the nation’s southern development hub may also be affected due to lower investor confidence.
“There may also be slight problems for property and industrial developments along the HSR route due to investors abandoning the locations,” he noted.
In general, Nanthakumar said, the cancellation would affect the Johor economy mainly in the long run as the HSR would have been able to attract investors for expanding the southern economy that was always affected by developments in Singapore.
He said the move to cancel the project, however, was in tandem with the present situation as it was not seen as appropriate to implement such an expensive mega project during these challenging times.
“The project can be revisited after the economy has recovered,” he added.
Earlier today, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the HSR project after the failure to come to an agreement on proposed changes before the deadline lapsed yesterday.
On May 31 last year, the two governments agreed to defer the HSR for a second time to Dec 31, 2020.
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