During the press conference after the bilateral agreement signing between Malaysia and Singapore for the JB-Singapore Rapid Transit System, a question was raised by the press on the criteria that both countries would use to choose the winning bidder for the Assets Company for the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project.

According to a Bernama report, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said it would be a comprehensive and multi-dimensional assessment, and would not only take into account technical and cost, but also the longevity of the project. This means its life cycle cost, maintenance and the maximisation of local content.

Since both countries called for a joint tender for the Assets Company last month, there has been a strong international interest, according to Najib. The most recent country to reveal its interest for the project is Japan with the Shinkansen (bullet train), with China, South Korea and several European countries posing as competition. The KL-SG HSR is said to be South East Asia’s largest ever infrastructure project.

As for the procurement, Najib said it would be done in a fair, open and transparent manner. “So that, people will see HSR really brings real benefit, tangible benefit even during construction period,” he said.

The proposed HSR stations in Malaysia

“It’s (the construction) about 10 years, but as you know, (given) the size of this project, the complexity of this project, 10 years is a relatively short period of time, which means we have to work very closely together. We are looking forward to its implementation according to schedule and we think that we will be able to deliver it according to the timeline we’ve committed to, between the two sides,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in December 2016 during the bilateral agreement signing for the KL-SG HSR.

Bids for the HSR project must be submitted by the middle of this year, with the contract expected to be awarded by the end of this year. The companies involved in the project, MyHSR Corporation in Malaysia and HSR Pte Ltd in Singapore announced last December 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 (see the themes and architectural concepts here), 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.

The seven KL-SG HSR stations in Malaysia are Bandar Malaysia, Bangi-Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri. Construction of the high-speed rail link is set to begin in 2018, with completion in 2025 and operations scheduled to start in 2026. Najib said that both sides were committed to the deadline.

GALLERY: Architectural concept designs of all Malaysian stations