Plans and investments for new property developments aimed at the Singapore market are now derailed, and those in the industry feel that Malaysia has missed out on a big chance to boost southern Johor’s economy.
Businesses that bought land in anticipation of starting new ventures — and even took loans — are now among the biggest losers with the cancellation of the HSR, those in Johor’s chambers of commerce groups said.Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) chairman Wong Boon Lang said the sector had hoped that with the HSR, Singaporeans would buy more properties and invest in the state.“The railway project would have brought a higher volume of people and allow Singaporeans to explore investment opportunities in Johor, including purchasing homes here as travel time will be shorter between Johor and the republic,” Mr Wong said.According to the original plan, Johor would have had three stations along the HSR line — Muar and Batu Pahat in the north and Iskandar Puteri in the south.
Dreams crushed, hopes dashed for speedy travel after KL-Singapore HSR called offThe HSR would have cut travel time between Singapore and northern Johor from the current driving time of two hours to less than one hour.“Muar and Batu Pahat would have been choice locations for Singaporean investors to explore beyond Johor Baru,” Mr Wong added.Singapore and Malaysia jointly announced the cancellation of the HSR on Jan 1, four years of planning since a bilateral agreement was signed in 2016.The cancellation came about after the two countries were unable to reach an agreement by the time the extended deadline on talks expired on Dec 31.The point of dispute on the 350km railway, according to an answer in the Singapore Parliament, is Malaysia’s request to remove assets company AssetsCo that would have supplied the trains and HSR systems and operated the rail line. Both countries had agreed to the AssetsCo in 2016 as essential to protect their interests and Singapore could not agree to its removal.
Perikatan wanted to dole out HSR jobs directly, cut Singapore out of selection process: NajibJohor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, however, has suggested the rail line proceeds from Kuala Lumpur, but up to Johor Baru only, saying it can still benefit the domestic market.But Rehda’s Mr Wong disagrees, saying the shorter line is not justifiable as it would not bring as much economic impetus as the full line to Singapore. The returns for Malaysia after spending on the project would not be as great.“We should be thinking about bringing in foreign funding, revitalising the economy, tourism, and the people movement. Without the line going to Singapore, it won’t have such a big effect.”Mr Wong expressed disappointment that the project has been cancelled after four years since the bilateral agreement was signed.“People have bought land near the proposed stations, some have even begun constructions, others have sold houses, loans have been taken.“The whole plan has been four years now. With the cancellation, there will now be serious effects. This is not only about investment, but also exchanges with Singapore. This involves a lot of resources from Singapore, and the situation is disappointing.
Failed HSR project: M’sia wanted to remove AssetsCo, which was needed to protect both countries’ interests, says Ong Ye Kung“We hope the rail line can be revived in the future,” Mr Wong said.Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said the Iskandar Puteri area in the south will also be impacted after struggling to boost greater development in the area since 2006. It was meant to be Johor’s version of Cyberjaya in the Klang Valley, but has failed to do so.Without new projects and the HSR, there will be little to drive investments and developments here, and some investors may no longer be able to withstand the pressure of mortgages.“On the whole, without high-speed rail, it is impossible to succeed here.”He said even if foreigners buy properties in Johor, they rarely live there. The HSR would at least have encouraged a greater flow of people in and out of the area.Currently, Iskandar Puteri is like a ghost town, made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Teh said.The HSR’s cancellation also halts the state’s projection of increasing Johor Baru’s population to three million by 2025, from the current 1.3 million.“The only way to introduce talent and flow of people is with an effective public transportation system.”Mr Teh said the cancelled HSR could not be replaced with proposals for dual-track railways, which run on a different concept and would have different spin-off effects than a high-speed railway.“If we want to develop Johor Baru into a metropolis, it requires a different development approach.” THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT