By PATRICK LEE
TOKYO: Civilian air traffic between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore may be severely affected once Malaysia’s high-speed rail (HSR) is up and running.
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism (railway bureau) Office of Project Coordination director Tomohiro Kobayashi said air travel between Tokyo and Nagoya (about 350km) nearly disappeared when the bullet train was introduced there in 1964.
“In 1964, there was a lot of air service between Tokyo and Nagoya, but as Shinkansen (Japanese high-speed rail) became more popular, it started to decline,” he said.
Today, air traffic between Tokyo and Nagoya is less than 1% of all transport mode share.
Transit expert Moaz Ahmad said the time required to get to the airport meant that more would chose to travel on HSR.
He said there would still be benefits of travelling by air for longer routes, as they were slightly faster.
JR East International Department general manager Takeshi Tsuyoshi suggested more might use the HSR due to waiting times at airport Customs and Immigration.
“Although the flying time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is about 45 minutes, you have to expect another two hours (of waiting),” he said.
Though the HSR would have its own process, he believed the waiting time could be shortened.
Aviation analyst Ahmad Maghfur Usman said an impact was expected, though it would depend on how much HSR tickets would cost.
“If a one-way ticket is RM100, that’s very competitive. Some won’t even mind paying RM150,” he said.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) data showed that there were eight flights departing Kuala Lumpur for Johor Bahru and 35 to Singapore each day.
Another transport expert Hitoshi Ieda said Malaysia’s high-speed rail passengers may be expected to pay more than other modes when the service opens up.
This may mean that only certain segments of Malaysian society would be willing to fork out money for the service, he said.
“If you are a business traveller in a small or large company, you would most probably use the HSR.
“However, if you’re a student, you would prefer the expressway bus system. It takes a long time but it’s much cheaper,” he said.
Railwaymen’s Union of Malaya president Abdul Razak Md Hassan, however, asked how many Malaysians – or Singaporeans – might be willing to use the HSR.
“Do people from Singapore want to come to Kuala Lumpur every day?” he asked.