Upcoming Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail sparks interest from train makers

Upcoming Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail sparks interest from train makers :Countries – including Japan, South Korea and China – have showcased their works in Malaysia, hoping to get selected to operate the upcoming service.

KUALA LUMPUR: Even before a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the high-speed rail (HSR) is signed between Malaysia and Singapore later this year, countries are rushing to showcase their latest trains and technologies to the people who might travel on the super-fast service.

On Thursday (May 5) at an exhibition by Japan Rail in an upmarket mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysians young and old were excited to experience a Shinkansen bullet train simulator first hand.

Capable of traveling up to 350 km per hour, Japan is promoting its series E5 train that would significantly reduce travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes.

Running since 2011, the E5 has a 100 per cent punctuality and zero fatality record.

“It’s up to Malaysians and Singaporeans (to decide),” said Dr Makio Miyagawa, the Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia. “We do not want to push hard. We hope the two countries will choose the best and safest system so it can be a show model to other Southeast Asian nations and to the whole world.”

Beijing also harbours the same ambition. China Railway Group (CREC) is eager to showcase its technology on a global platform using the HSR as a platform. It is touted as the front runner, having invested heavily in Malaysia, from energy to integrated property development.

Late last year, China Railway together with its local joint-venture partner, Iskandar Waterfront Holdings acquired a 60 per cent stake in Bandar Malaysia, which houses the HSR terminus from state-owned 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) for RM7.41 billion.

It has also announced a plan to build a US$2 billion commercial complex and moved its regional headquarters to Bandar Malaysia, one of 1MDB’s developments.

“Together with our local developer in infrastructure development, I can not find one who can match with us,” said Cai Zemin, the general manager of CREC.

Apart from China and Japan, South Korea is also showing a strong interest in the HSR project. It is showcasing its high-speed rail system KTX, operated by Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail).

The promotional activities have generated a lot of enthusiasm among Malaysians.

“Safety is everything,” said Michael Yip, an engineer. “I hope the government will put government-to-government consideration second. Pricing is not everything; the technical track record is more important.”

Both countries leaders are expected to sign the MOU during the annual retreat in Malaysia in September, before the signing of a bilateral agreement early next year.

The HSR is expected to have two different services operating on same gauge, but on a double track system, with a direct service straight into Singapore in just 90 minutes and another service with six stops between Kuala Lumpur, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Batu Pahat, Muar and Nusajaya with a feeder train into Singapore.

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