hitachi bullet train

According to The Star, China is looking ever more likely to win its bid to develop the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). Eyeing the project for a long time now, it is reported that China state-owned conglomerates have been paving the way for the move by making various acquisitions in Malaysia amounting up to RM25 billion in just the last four months.

The KL-Singapore HSR project is expected to be launched in a matter of one or two years’ time. The RM70 billion project is said to economically boost activities in all areas where stations will be built. Existing plans show that the line will begin in Bandar Malaysia, and will have stations in Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya. The line ends in Jurong East, Singapore.

China is the undoubtedly one of the world’s fastest-growing developers of high speed rail systems, and naturally, wants a piece of the pie. However, MAG Technical managing director, Goh Bok Yen, who is also a well-known transportation planning consultant, said that it is still too early to say who will win the project.

“On the investment and political front, China has made inroads and many think it is the frontrunner for the HSR project. But it is premature to say who will get it now as the joint venture company to own and manage the HSR project has not been set up yet,” Goh explained. Malaysian and Singaporean governments are expected to deliver a commercial model and procurement approach for the HSR project this year.

HSR stations proposed

Speaking to the publication, Goh suggested that China may also be ahead of its competitors because it was one of the first organisations that pledged to fully finance the project, initially estimated to cost some RM40 billion. The expert added that China has existing experience with Malaysia, having worked on the KTM and LRT lines here, as well as supplying 80% of its trains, coaches and necessary equipment.

However, the publication claims that sources who have spoken to rail consultants in Singapore say that the Lion City isn’t too keen about China’s ambitions. It is said that over the past years, China has failed to establish as good a reputation as Japan has, for example, at building high speed trains. Also, memories of the Wenzhou crash in 2011 that killed 40 people and injured 192 others still appear fresh.

“China started rail modernisation and high speed train development only about 15 years ago. But its speed of development and implementation is incredibly high. Competitors can say anything about China, but look at this country, it has far more tracks and rail systems than all other countries combined in the world,” Goh adds.

“If you look at the number of accidents involved, China may be high. But if you look at the accidents per million train-km, it may not be high and is lower than many other countries,” he says. He concludes by saying that safety cannot be compromised, and that Malaysia will need to set up a team of experts to look into all systems. “It also needs an independent assessment team to give professional advice to the government, without political and sentiment considerations.”