Malaysia drops KL-Singapore bullet train project

Malaysia has shelved plans for a bullet train linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore because of the cost, a top planning official said on Tuesday.

The 8 billion ringgit (US$2.5 billion) project, proposed by Malaysian infrastructure and utilities group YTL Corp in 2006, aimed to cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes from seven-and-a-half hours presently.

“The government is not going ahead with the bullet train project because the financial model submitted would involve a significant cost to be borne by the government,” Sulaiman Mahbob, head of the economic planning unit in the Prime Minister’s Office, told Reuters via telephone.

Officials of YTL had no immediate comment.

The idea for a high-speed train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, about 300 kilometres apart, dates back to the late 1990s, but was revived after the Malaysian government invited companies to submit ideas for privately funded projects.

The Malaysian government backed the project in 2007 after it passed a feasibility study, but said at the time it wanted to conduct a social impact study since the project would involve land acquisition.

News of the abandonment came shortly after the government said it was reviewing some projects under a five-year state development plan, reviving concerns that it might postpone them following its shock electoral setback in last month’s poll.

“There are many projects that are being reviewed at the moment,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters earlier on Tuesday, referring to jobs under the 200-billion ringgit (US$64 billion) development plan.

He did not elaborate, but government officials said the state was reconsidering some projects due to the rising cost of building materials and to give priority to food projects to ensure sufficient supply and help curb rising prices. – REU/al

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 22 Apr 2008

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