Transport minister Ota lobbies for Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail project

Kyodo

Visiting transport minister Akihiro Ota on Wednesday lobbied for Japan’s participation in a high-speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in a meeting with his Malaysian counterpart.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the rail project was one of the main topics in his talks with Ota. “We welcome Japan’s proposal. We are looking into their technology as well as financial package,” he told Kyodo News after meeting Ota.

There have been no official estimates of how much the project is worth, but various media reports, quoting analysts and rail experts, put the figure between $8 billion and $24 billon.

Liow said both parties have agreed to set up a “focal point” between the two governments to directly handle future proposals for the rail project.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a pitch for Japan’s “bullet train” technology when he met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Tokyo in May.

Malaysia and Singapore are aiming to complete the rail project that stretches some 320 km by 2020.

“We are racing against time,” Liow said. To date, both Malaysia and Singapore are still conducting feasibility studies. They have yet to call for tenders. Besides Japan, many countries have also expressed interest in the project, including China, South Korea, France, Germany, Britain and Spain.

Liow said Japan’s shinkansen system is “one of the best in the world.”

Ota is scheduled to meet Land, Public Transport Commission Chairman Syed Hamid Albar on Thursday before he departs for Cambodia. The commission is managing the project.