"The high-speed rail (HSR) project, with seven stations — two terminus stations (KL and Singapore) and five transit stops (one each in Negri Sembilan and Malacca and three in Johor), could spur development, accelerate hightech industries in Seremban and expand tourism industry in Malacca."
The Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore high-speed train project has reached the second stage of its pre-tendering exercise which should put to rest any lingering doubt about the construction of the RM40 billion rail link.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) CEO Mohd Nur Ismail Mohamed Kamal said a joint working committee of Malaysia and Singapore officials was set up in December to fine-tune the construction plan for the project.
“We are now at pre-tender phase 2 of the project. This includes finalisation of engagement with Singapore and finalisation of project structure that will be the main input to the tender process,” Mohd Nur Ismail told The Malaysian Reserve.
There was early speculation that the hefty rail project could be a casualty of the Malaysian government’s rescheduling of mega projects but this has since been denied by the government.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak said in February last year that the project was “doable” as a public-private partnership. However, doubts still persisted over the project because of its high construction costs.
The much-hyped project is taking shape after it was initially mooted by YTL Corp Bhd in the 1990s, but remained on the back-burner after it was estimated that it would cost between RM2.5 billion and RM3.5 billion to build the network.
Malaysian infrastructure players such as YTL, MMC Corp Bhd, Gamuda Bhd and UEM Group Bhd could now be in the race for the project. The 330km line is slated to be completed by 2020, promising a travel time of 90 minutes between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore compared to the present six hours.
The project is also challenging because no one has operated a 300km per hour train service in tropical conditions before. Also, immigration and customs services need to be handled on board of the non-stop service between Malaysia and Singapore.
The high-speed rail (HSR) project, with seven stations — two terminus stations (KL and Singapore) and five transit stops (one each in Negri Sembilan and Malacca and three in Johor), could spur development, accelerate hightech industries in Seremban and expand tourism industry in Malacca.
It would also push up property prices along the states such as Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor, especially in Iskandar, the southern corridor.
“HSR may alleviate congestion costs associated with urban growth in main cities, triggering growth of nearby secondand third-tier cities. Nearby lower tier cities will become a safety valve for the over populated cities,” Knight Frank Malaysia Sdn Bhd MD Sarkunan Subramaniam said recently.
But challenges are abound for the project. “There are some challenges identified such as land acquisition. Early gazette is necessary to ensure readiness of right of ways and to curb price speculation.
“Other challenges include optimal procurement approach to ensure lowest yet credible bid price from the market and ensure implementation risk is minimised,” said Mohd Nur Ismail.
On the flip-side, the aviation industry, especially budget airlines, are predicted to feel the pinch once operations begin. According to Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), lowcost carriers could suffer badly as they control 60% of the Singapore- KL market.
CAPA chief analyst Brendan Sobie said HSR could decimate traffic on the world’s thirdlargest international route — Singapore-KL.
“HSR connecting KL with Singapore could result in a huge drop-off in air traffic between the two cities if new HSR link opens as planned in 2020.
“The new rail line could also change the dynamics of competition between Singapore’s Changi and KL International Airport, particularly if the line includes stops at either or both airports,” he added. Seremban Property