Singapore and Malaysia signs Bilateral Agreement on High Speed Rail

Singapore-KL-high-speed-rail-Strait Times-photo

Dreaming of reaching Singapore from Kuala Lumpur in only 90 minutes? This has been for a long time a project of both Singapore and Malaysia government. Except that political prides, disputes about the location of the checkpoint, have delayed and delayed and delayed the project of having a high speed train covering in an hour and a half the 350 km separating both cities. Originally mulled out in the 1990s and then abandonned due to the high cost of building the link; revived in 2013, it is however only this week that both government finally signed the agreement over the high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

The bilateral agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) has been signed by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan . The high profile event was witnessed by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak in Putrajaya on Tuesday, December 13.

The agreement sets the stage for design, build, finance and maintains the civil infrastructure as well as operates the HSR stations in their respective country. But the hope to just jump in a train in one capital and disembark 90 minutes later in the other capital is not around the corner. According to the agreement, the construction is due to start in 2018 while the first high speed train service should potentially roll out only on December 31, 2026. That represents another decade of waiting!

Singapore’s appointed infrastructure entity is the Land Transport Authority, while for Malaysia, it is MyHSR.

Under the agreement, the HSR lines in Singapore and Malaysia are to be linked by a bridge over the Straits of Johor with a height clearance of 25m above the water level. Of the entire rail system, 335km will lie in Malaysia while, 15km in Singapore, in which most will be underground. The Singapore terminal will be located at jurong East where The Singapore station will be located where the Jurong Country Club is currently located.

The plan is to have eight stations between Singapore and Malaysia with the two terminal stations at Jurong East in Singapore and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. The other six HSR stops in Malaysia will be at Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri (johor Bahru). Some services will be purely Malaysia domestic.

The 350 km-long HSR line will cut off the travel time from Malaysia to Singapore from 4 hours drive and over nine hours by KTM train to just 90 minutes. Future HSR trains will be able to ride at a maximum speed of 300km/hour.

Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities will also be co-located at Singapore, Bandar Malaysia and Iskandar Puteri, which means that international passengers will only need to undergo both Singapore and Malaysia CIQ clearance at the point of departure.

Both countries will call for a joint tender for an international operator to run the KL-Singapore express service and a cross-border shuttle service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri. The latter will also be be run by an international operator.

It was also said that Malaysia will put up a tender for a domestic operator to run the domestic service within the country. Meanwhile, another joint tender for a privately financed assets company to operate and maintain rail assets will also be called next year.