First stop India, next stop Singapore-Malaysia for Japan's bullet train sales campaign


Fresh from beating China in a $15 billion rail contract in India, Japan now aims to sell its bullet trains to a high-speed line being planned between Singapore and the Malaysian capital. The project would open a new market for companies from Hitachi Ltd. to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The government supports such a bid, Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters Tuesday in Tokyo. Cooperation between the government and business leaders was crucial in clinching the deal with India last week, he said.

Japan, which built the world’s first high-speed train more than half a century ago, is stepping up efforts to export its bullet-train technology to meet a pledge by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to triple infrastructure exports to ¥30 trillion by 2020.

Singapore and Malaysia have proposed a rail line connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur that will cut the travel time for the 300-kilometer journey to 90 minutes. It currently takes at least four hours by road.

Malaysia and Singapore received close to 250 submissions after calling for a request for information for the project, with 98 short-listed, Malaysia’s New Straits Times newspaper reported Tuesday. Fourteen foreign entities among the 98 were asked to present their views, including France’s Alstom SA, Germany’s Siemens AG, Spain’s CAF and Talgo SA, Canada’s Bombardier Inc., a group led by China Railway, as well as consortia from Japan and South Korea, the paper reported, without saying where it obtained the names.

“As part of the Japan team we want to cover all aspects of train operations, including operations and maintenance, not just selling trains,” Hitachi President Toshiaki Higashihara told reporters Tuesday in Tokyo. “We want to work on delivering a whole package” for the Singapore-Malaysia high-speed rail, he said.

China is the main supplier of rolling stock in Malaysia, with 80 percent of the market, said Syed Hamid Albar, chairman of Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission, according to the New Straits Times. China has expressed “keen interest” in the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur project, but it all boils down “to competition,” Syed Hamid was quoted as saying.

Japan beat China for India’s first high-speed rail contract. India picked Japan to help build a 505-km railway connecting the financial capital of Mumbai with Ahmedabad, a major economic and industrial hub in Gujarat state, the two nations announced Saturday.

In addition, Hitachi and three other companies won a contract to supply part of an Indian freight corridor between Delhi and Mumbai with signaling and telecommunications systems, Hitachi said last week.

“We want to significantly expand infrastructure exports to India,” Hitachi’s Higashihara said Tuesday.

Hitachi makes bullet trains. Mitsubishi Heavy manages the construction of high-speed train projects, including the first export of Japan’s bullet-train technology to Taiwan for a line that opened in 2007.

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