Malaysia’s PM vows to scrap Singapore rail link, worrying its neighbor

2018-05-29 02:37:45 GMT2018-05-29 10:37:45(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad pledged Monday to scrap a project to build a high-speed railway to Singapore, in an ominous sign for the neighbors' famously fractious relationship.

Mahathir, who won a surprise election victory this month against Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition, is seeking to improve the country's finances which he says deteriorated dramatically after the former government became embroiled in a financial scandal.

The leader said it was a "final decision" to scrap plans for the bullet-train line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which had been agreed on several years ago and was expected to cut travel times to 90 minutes from five hours by road today.

"It's not beneficial. It's going to cost us a huge sum of money, we'll make no money at all from this operation," the 92-year-old said.

Mahathir said he was not sure how long it would take to implement, adding, "of course we have to talk to Singapore, we have an agreement with them."

Singapore's transport ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The development will alarm the Singapore government, which is watching to see whether the return of Mahathir - whose relationship with the city-state was famously prickly during his first stint as premier from 1981-2003 - might cause ties to worsen.

The neighbors have had a difficult relationship since Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian Federation in 1965 over ethnic issues, and relations in subsequent decades were punctuated by occasional bickering.

When Mahathir was first prime minister, rows blew up frequently over everything from water - Singapore gets its water supply from Malaysia - to the Malaysian leader's plan to build a bridge connecting the neighbors to replace the current causeway. The project never took off.

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