KL-Singapore HSR: What you need to know

KL-Singapore HSR: What you need to know

Bandar Malaysia
The concept design for Bandar Malaysia station along the KL-Singapore HSR. (Photo: MyHSR) 

SINGAPORE: Construction for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) line was due to start this year, but the project is set to be derailed, after Malaysia announced on Monday (May 28) that it will be scrapping it.

Here's what you need to know:

HOW DID THE PROJECT COME ABOUT?

Once hailed as a "game-changer" by then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the proposed 350km-long HSR line aimed to reduce travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to around 90 minutes by train, from the current 11 hours on existing train services.

It was first unveiled in February 2013 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Najib at a leaders' retreat. The two countries signed a legally binding bilateral agreement on the project in 2016, paving the way for its implementation.

Construction on the project - which has been estimated to cost around RM50 billion (S$16.8 billion) to RM60 billion by Malaysia's then-second finance minister - was due to start this year, with the line expected to begin operations in 2026.

WHAT DID IT ENTAIL?

Running for 350km, the planned HSR line had eight stops: Singapore, Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Melaka, Seremban, Sepang-Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. Terminus stations were planned for Kuala Lumpur's Bandar Malaysia and Singapore's Jurong East.

The line would host an express service from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, a domestic service from Kuala Lumpur to Iskandar Puteri and a shuttle service from Iskander Puteri to Jurong East.

In addition, co-located Singapore and Malaysia Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facilities were planned at Bandar Malaysia, Iskander Puteri and Jurong East - meaning that a traveller at the Jurong East terminus could for example clear Singapore immigration and then Malaysian immigration a few steps later, before boarding the train and getting off in Kuala Lumpur.

In Singapore, Raffles Country Club and Jurong Country Club had been acquired by the authorities for the project, with the latter meant to house the HSR terminus.

WHAT WERE THE EXPECTED BENEFITS?

Apart from slashing travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the rail link was expected to contribute RM21 billion (S$6.7 billion) in gross domestic product to Malaysia and Singapore, as well as create 111,000 jobs by 2060.

Separately, an environmental impact assessment report in 2017 said that the long-term benefits for commuter safety and carbon emissions provided a "strong justification" for the project.

HSR timeline

KEEN INTERNATIONAL INTEREST 

Under the project, both governments each took responsibility for developing, constructing and maintaining the civil infrastructure and stations within their own countries.

Last year, Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the formation of a wholly owned subsidiary - SG HSR - to implement the project and build, own, fund and maintain the civil infrastructure in Singapore.

It would then work with its Malaysian counterpart, MyHSR, to jointly appoint an assets company and an international operator for the project through an open international tender.

The project had attracted keen interest globally, with Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia saying earlier this year that the country could offer a “truly holistic” package towards the project.

In addition to bidders from Malaysia and Singapore, others who have expressed an interest include firms from China, Japan, South Korea and Europe.

WHY IS MALAYSIA PULLING OUT?

Dr Mahathir on Monday told reporters that the project was "not beneficial" to Malaysia, saying that the country would "make no money at all" from the arrangement. 

In a separate interview with the Financial Times, he said the project would cost Malaysia RM110 billion (US$28 billion) but would not earn the country "a single cent".

WHAT'S NEXT?

When he was asked by Channel NewsAsia if his decision had been communicated to Singapore, Dr Mahathir said: "I don't know".

In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said on Friday evening that it has yet to receive any official notification from Malaysia on its plans to scrap the project.

Separately, Malaysia and Singapore also have an agreement for a Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link which Prime Minister Lee has said will go on regardless of "whoever is the government" on either side. About S$3 billion had been set aside for the RTS Link and the HSR project in the Ministry of Transport's FY18 budget, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech earlier this year.


Source: CNA/nc

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