However, the two countries have also agreed to resume discussions shortly regarding proposed changes to the commercial and technical aspects of the project. The discussions on the Malaysian side will be led by Mr Mohamed Azmin Ali, minister of international trade and industry.

Singapore’s transport minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, agreed to the extension of the deferment of the project, which has already been suspended for two years. “In the spirit of bilateral cooperation, we have agreed to a final extension of the suspension period to December 31,” Wan said. “This should provide sufficient time for Malaysia to clarify its proposal and for both sides to assess the implications of the proposed changes.

“The Covid-19 pandemic does inconvenience the discussions, but tele-conferencing can largely overcome the difficulty. The key is joint commitment to the project’s vision and mutual trust.

“Nevertheless, the HSR is a complex project, and both sides have to be convinced that the changes do not undermine the original intent of the project. I remain optimistic that a HSR linking our two capitals will benefit both our peoples.”

Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mr Mahathir Mohamad, announced in May 2018 that his government was looking to abandon its commitment to the project, which was launched by his predecessor, and in September 2018 the two countries agreed to suspend the scheme until May 31 2020.

Malaysia selected two civil engineering contractors for its part of the 350km line in April 2018. The new line was originally planned to open in 2026.

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