Japan has confirmed its bid for the contract to build the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) network, said to be South East Asia’s largest ever infrastructure project. The package being offered by the Land of the Rising Sun is claimed to be all-encompassing, covering technological, financial and economic aspects of the project for the betterment of both Malaysia and Singapore.

In an interview with Bernama, Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Makio Miyagawa said that Japan will offer the best technology through the Shinkansen, the world’s first high-speed rail system. He added that the country will also provide total transfer of technology and local vendor development that will greatly benefit Malaysian and Singaporean companies, including small and medium enterprises.

“We will be offering our best suited technologies to Malaysians and Singaporeans as well as full-fledged training for the officials, operators and engineers of both countries so that they can start the operations by themselves from Day One,” Miyagawa said. “Japan would also like to offer the most comprehensive financial package which would certainly help the two nations to reduce as much of their financial burden as possible.”

Miyagawa noted that such an arrangement would be in line with Japan’s longstanding philosophy of economic assistance, particularly in Asia. “The philosophy of our economic assistance has all along been in such a way that Japan has assisted the recipient nations to stand on their own feet.

“It would not like to dominate the benefits but to share them. It would withdraw from the operation when you are ready to take over. If you would like us to stay on for some years, we would. It is not the Japan’s way to win [a contract] and run away. That would be irresponsible,” he said.

Japan has already offered technology, human capital and financial resources to enable its companies to collaborate with Malaysian and Singaporean companies, Miyagawa said, adding that this would help all the companies and the private sector as a whole to go hand-in-hand to advance together.

“In the high-speed rail system, our government and private sector would be ready and are very keen to collaborate with the local industries in Malaysia and Singapore so that the gradual transfer of technology and human capital will succeed and will help newly-introducing technology nations like Malaysia and Singapore to operate the system right from the start,” he said.

The project, Miyagawa added, would boost the economies of both Malaysia and Singapore by linking them together as well as the burgeoning mega cities in Asia. “The connectivity will increase and along the alignment many cities will flourish. And that is why we are very happy to participate in this project,” he said.

Miyagawa also brought up the Shinkansen‘s safety record, which he said is the most important aspect in any public transport system. “Japan invented the bullet train technology. The advantage of the Shinkansen is that it has been operated for almost 50 years without any fatal accident or human capital problems.

“This is the merit of the system which is based upon the superiority of the hardware as well as the excellence of the software operations, based upon the accumulated know-how of the engineers and operators in Japan,” he said.

The proposed Bandar Malaysia station design

Bids for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail project must be submitted by the middle of this year, with the contract expected to be awarded by end-2018. Other countries that have expressed interest in the project include China, South Korea and France.

The companies involved in the project, MyHSR Corporation in Malaysia and HSR Pte Ltd in Singapore announced on December 20 that they would start accepting bids for a railway “assets company” responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining all rail assets. Second finance minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani reportedly said that the project will cost between RM50 billion and RM60 billion.

The 350 km line, which will incorporate eight stations, is intended to cut the travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes, and is expected to stimulate the economies of several localities along the route. Operations are set to commence around 2026.