The question on those that have vested interest in the High Speed Rail (HSR) and Jurong Lake District (JLD): “Are HSR and JLD projects doomed with Mahathir’s historic election win?” The election of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan in Malaysia’s 14th General Election has cast a pale shadow on the HSR project between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur – and by extension, the JLD development. The positive vibes surrounding the JLD is hinged on the HSR project and Dr Mahathir has publicly opposed the project.
“We need to do a study whether it is feasible or not because we don’t have the money and we have to borrow money, and that is not something the Government can bear at this moment,” he told a Malaysian publication in January last year.
Adding: “We have to know whether we really need this HSR or not.”
In December 2016, Singapore and Malaysia signed an agreement to build a multi-billion dollar, 350km high-speed rail link between the two countries. The project has been a shot in the arm for developments in and around the JLD.
The Twin VEW development near the HSR and JLD projects is reflective of the upbeat mood in the market of the developments around the area. The project located at West Coast Vale is expected to be completed by 2021.
Twin VEW, CSC Land Group’s maiden residential development in Singapore, saw 85 per cent of its units being sold in its opening weekend. With 442 units out of a total of 520 units sold (including four penthouses), the average price of units sold was $1,399 per square feet (psf).
CSC Land Group said that the buyers were a mix of group of singles, young couples, families and multi-generational families. Of the 442 units sold, 83 per cent were Singaporeans, 15 per cent were permanent residents, and the rest were foreign purchasers.
“We are very encouraged by the strong response this weekend,” said Li Xiao Qian, chairman of CSC Land Group.
He added, “all unit-types have been very well-received, demonstrating the diversity offered by Twin VEW. We are confident that this momentum will continue.”
But is the election of Dr Mahathir and his coalition likely to have a dampening effect on developments such as Twin Vew in and around the JLD area?
It is unlikely that the HSR will be the immediate target of Dr Mahathir’s administration for several reasons. One reason being, the HSR is likely to boost in flights between the two cities, making Singapore Changi-Kuala Lumpur International Airport the third largest international route in the world.
The HSR is also expected to reduce commute by air and car between the cities, leading to improvements in commuter safety. As one study noted: “6,872 fatalities were recorded on Malaysian roads in 2010, especially during festive seasons with high traffic figures. As commuters switch to using the HSR instead of driving, this could reduce the exposure of commuters to safety incidents with significant benefits to the economy and society”.
The HSR is expected to create 111,000 jobs, as well. And all these factors, together, may convince the incoming Malaysian Administration that the HSR is necessary as it benefits both countries.
Dr Mahathir had previously assured Singaporeans that they should not worry about Malaysia’s relationship with the republic if his coalition gets elected.
“There were differences between Malaysia and Singapore during my time but we didn’t go to war. We were trying to find ways of solving those things in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Instead of the HSR, Dr Mahathir’s immediate attention could be focused on another Malaysian rail development – the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL). And unlike the HSR (where Dr Mahathir’s comments had been ‘iffy’) his response on the ECRL is sharp and definitive.
Citing the project’s cost of S$18 billion, as well as feasibility and practicality issues, Dr Mahathir said that he will scrap the ECRL project.
Commenting on the practicality of travel by ECRL, Dr Mahathir asked: “A train from Kota Baru to Port Klang would take around 14 hours of travel time. A low-cost flight from Kota Baru to Kuala Lumpur takes just 30 minutes. “Which is more feasible?”
So, developers and recent home buyers who were attracted by the HSR and JLD projects to put down cold, hard cash in realty in that area need not be overly concerned with the election of Dr Mahathir and his coalition government, the actions (if any) it would take on the HSR and its effects on the upbeat sentiments on properties in that area.
Besides the HSR and JLD projects, stakeholders in the western part of Singapore are also expected to get a boost from the announcement of the seventh MRT line – Jurong Region Line. The new line will serve the Jurong area and the western part of Singapore and is expected to lift the fortunes of not just the properties in JLD, but also the real estate in Boon Lay and Choa Chu Kang.
The Jurong Region Line will be 24km long with 24 stations, and will run above-ground. It will open in three phases, starting from 2026. The Jurong Region Line will give commuters route choices. For example, the two interchange stations at Choa Chu Kang and Boon Lay will connect the North-South Line (NSL) and East-West Line (EWL), giving commuters alternative travel routes.
Singapore’s Transport Minister assured that the Jurong Region Line marks a quantum leap in the Government’s improvement of transport infrastructure for Jurong.
So, with the HSR and JLD projects being very unlikely to be derailed by the new Malaysian government and with the development of of the Jurong Region Line, the properties in and around the JLD area are highly unlikely to lose its shine anytime soon.
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