Malaysia on track to invite bids for high-speed rail project, likely by year-end

Kyodo

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai on Thursday affirmed that plans are on track to call for a tender for a high-speed rail project linking Singapore with Kuala Lumpur by the end of this year.

“We would like to get started hopefully by the end of the year for this open tender,” he said. “Looks like (it’s) on schedule.”

Asked about shinkansen technology, Liow, who was in Singapore to attend an annual ASEAN transport ministers’ meeting, said, “We have been visiting Japan, and I have been given a chance to sit on the shinkansen.

“We like the train. It’s advanced and actually it’s high tech. I would say it’s a good train, especially in terms of safety and also the cost is manageable,” he said, adding that the cost of purchasing the train and maintaining it are important factors in choosing the company to build the high-speed rail.

Japan has expressed interest in bidding in an international tender for the contract to develop the 350-km-long high-speed rail that will cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to just 90 minutes from about four hours now.

However, Japan is likely to face fierce competition from other contenders, including China, South Korea and European countries.

In a written response to questions submitted by Kyodo News late last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak praised Japan’s bullet train technology for its “remarkable safety and on-time service record,” but added that while those were important considerations, “cost efficiency will be the key.”

The details about the tender are likely to be announced by the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore when they meet for their retreat at the end of the year, Liow said. Malaysian officials said the leaders’ retreat will be held on Dec. 14.

The two countries had already set a target for the commencement of the high-speed rail services in December 2026.

Liow said the second industrial briefing on Sept. 26 in London that was held soon after the first industrial briefing in Singapore in July this year received an encouraging response from the business sector.

“There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm among all the players, stakeholders to come and participate in this tender,” he said, adding that the project will be “a game changer for Malaysia and Singapore’s economic growth.”