MALAYSIA has shelved plans for a bullet train linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore because of the cost, a top planning official said yesterday.
The RM8 billion (S$3.4 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 now on the colonial- era rail corridor.
"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," Mr Sulaiman Mahbob, head of the economic planning unit in the prime minister's office, told Reuters by telephone.
He gave no further details. Officials of YTL, which already runs an express train between Kuala Lumpur and the capital's international airport, had no immediate comment.
The idea for a high-speed train between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, about 300 km 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 last year 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.
The 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 yesterday, referring to jobs under Malaysia's RM200-billion development plan from 2006 to 2010.
One project that has been delayed is a 24-km bridge linking Penang to the mainland, touted as South-east Asia's longest bridge.
Officials previously estimated the new bridge - the second link between Penang and the mainland - would cost RM3.5 billion and be completed in January 2011.
Construction of the bridge has been delayed by nine months, the Star said yesterday. Estimates now put its cost at RM4.3 billion, the newspaper said.
Datuk Seri Abdullah attributed the delay to land acquisition issues, the project design, and rising costs.
"There may be some changes in the cost because the price of materials have gone up," he said.
He did not say how long the project would be delayed.
The move may not go down well with investors and opposition politicians who have feared the government might curtail development projects in the five opposition states, including Penang.
Mr Lim Guan Eng, Penang's chief minister, said he was "shocked" by the premier's announcement.
"Two weeks ago when I met the prime minister, he assured me that the second Penang bridge will continue," said Mr Lim. - REUTERS, AFP