Hopes up for HSR seamless travel

PETALING JAYA: Several overtures have been received by the government from the private sector over its intent to build the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) using private financing, says Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

“Yes, several companies did reach out, but everything is still in its infancy. There is no solid, concrete proposal that the government can consider at the moment,” he said here yesterday after being hosted by two radio stations belonging to Star Media Group – 988 and Suria FM.

“Things are still at a very preliminary stage,” he said as he confirmed that a request for information (RFI) process for the HSR project is ongoing, with the process being conducted by MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle under the Finance Ministry.

In its original proposal, the KL-Singapore HSR will enable non-stop travel from Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore’s Jurong East in not more than 90 minutes.

Another “transit” service will also operate along the express service to enable stops at Bandar Malaysia, Sepang-Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka (Alor Gajah), Muar, Batu Pahat, Iskandar Puteri and Jurong East.

There will also be three co-located Customs, Immigration & Quarantine (CIQ) facilities to allow both Malaysian and Singaporean border formalities at Bandar Malaysia, Iskandar Puteri and Jurong East to allow for seamless travel in both directions.

On March 8, Loke said in Parliament that the HSR can still be built, as long as it does not involve government funding.

Meanwhile, those looking for quicker travel between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru will have to wait for another two years, as the KTM Bhd’s (KTMB) electrification and double-tracking between Gemas and Johor Baru – over a distance of 200km – will be delayed until the middle of 2025, at the earliest.

Loke said the Covid-19 pandemic was a factor in prolonging the completion of the project that is expected to allow medium-speed travel using KTM’s ETS trains from KL Sentral to JB Sentral in around four hours.

The rail distance from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru is comparable to the distance from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth, which is currently completed in four hours using the ETS.

The contractor for the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking project was said to have received an extension of the completion timeline to April 2025, with stations along the stretch to be opened gradually.

He also said the government was looking at ways to solve KTMB’s shortage of rolling stock and was also ready to consider any proposal from the private sector to provide relief.

While it has also procured 10 sets of new ETS rolling stock (which is currently being assembled) to serve the Gemas-JB sector in due time, Loke said that the government was considering whether leasing privately owned rolling stock could be a viable option.

“Of course, these (contracts) will have to have the maintenance component built into them, as we acknowledge that (equipment) maintenance is an area of weakness so far,” he said.

Meanwhile, those using the KTM Komuter service in Klang Valley should get some relief by the third quarter of this year following the expected completion of Phase 1 of the Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT) rehabilitation project.

Loke said work that is taking place progressively along the stretch from Rawang to KL Sentral and from Batu Caves to Salak Selatan is expected to be finished by August, with the signalling component being the most critical.

Other than the signal component, this “final lap” of the KVDT Phase 1 rehabilitation has three components left: the Sentul Bypass (3.8km), the stretch from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan to Salak Selatan Upline (1.8 km), and Lines 5 and 6, consisting of 1km stretches near KL Sentral and a cargo spur line towards Simpang Port Klang, respectively.

The timeline for Phase 2 of the KVDT rehabilitation remains unchanged, with this portion – near KL Sentral to Port Klang and from Salak Selatan to Seremban – requiring another seven years to be completed.

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