Consultant to be appointed soon for high speed KL-Singapore rail link

PETALING JAYA: The plan for a high speed rail (HSR) linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is gaining traction as it is now at a feasibility study stage.

It is learnt that the Land and Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has issued a tender for the study last December, and the appointment of a consultant is expected to be announced soon, sources familiar with the matter confirmed.

Contrary to recent news report, the idea for a HSR did not come from a proposal from the private sector but from the Performance Management and Delivery Unit laboratory.

“The feasibility study would include a detailed commercial and technical assessment, before a decision could be made on the project,” said the source.

HSR services, pioneered by Japan in the 1960s, gained prominence in Asia after South Korea, Taiwan and China introduced the service in the last 10 years. Some of these companies have been quite profitable.

For example, the TaipeiKaohsiung HSR, a 345km line with six intermediate stops, had carried over 30 million passengers in 2011, and had been generating operating profit since 2009 its third year of operation.

If everything goes well in Malaysia with the HSR study, the source said new HSR tracks would be required, as KTM Bhd (KTMB) uses the metre gauge track which allowed the train to travel at only 130km per hour on average.

“High speed rail trains run on the broader standard gauge with an average speed of 250km an hour,” said a source.

This would translate into a journey of less than 90 minutes between KL and Singapore.

According to the source, the feasibility study would also be identifying an alignment for the Kuala LumpurSingapore HSR.

“A potential alignment that is being considered is for it to be closer to the coastal areas, which would provide better connectivity to the towns currently not covered by KTMB.

“As the TaipeiKaohsiung HSR has six intermediate stops, it might be feasible for the KLSingapore HSR to have several stops before reaching Singapore,” said the source.

Historically, a new high speed rail line could lead to enhanced economic activities.

A relevant comparison is Lille in northern France which has been transformed from a town with high unemployment rate into a high speed rail cross-road and the third largest economic centre in France, since the introduction of the service in the 1990s. It was recently reported that China Railway Co had submitted a proposal for the HSR. However, the market talk has been denied by SPAD.

The recent buzz project has also garnered interest from other global companies including South Korean Posco Engineering & Construction Ltd and US-based General Electric.

Posco has set up an operation centre in Malaysia with the intention to jointly bid for railway projects in the country with a local party, while General Electric plans to sell its locomotives.

Siemens had also voiced its interest to play a part in the high speed rail service.

Many emerging economies such as Brazil, India and Thailand are currently conducting their own feasibility studies on the viability of the high speed rail service.

“It is hoped that SPAD would conduct a thorough analysis and make its findings available to the public,” said the source.