Singapore, Malaysia Inks Agreement On High Speed Rail; Joint Tender To Be Called Next Year

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PUTRAJAYA, Dec 13 – The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) bilateral agreement was signed in Putrajaya on Tuesday (Dec 13), setting the stage for design and construction until service begins by 2026. Dubbed a game changer by leaders of both countries, the HSR will take travellers from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in 90 minutes, with operations targeted to begin by Dec 31, 2026.  

The agreement – which came about five months after a memorandum of understanding was inked – was signed by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan and Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan. The signing was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

Both countries have agreed to design, build, finance and maintain the civil infrastructure and operate the HSR stations in their respective territories. Singapore’s appointed infrastructure entity is the Land Transport Authority, while it is MyHSR for Malaysia.

Next year, both countries will call a joint tender for a privately-financed assets company to design, build, finance and maintain the rolling stock and rail assets, such as the track work, power, signalling and telecommunications systems. They will also jointly award a tender for a joint development partner early next year to provide advice on operational, technical and procurement matters.

A new double-track line will be constructed to accommodate all types of conventional HSR trains and technology available in the market with a design speed of 350 km/h. The assets company will, in turn, lease the trains to an international operator to run the HSR and shuttle service that will ply between Singapore (Jurong East station) and Malaysia.

It will also lease trains to a Malaysian domestic operator, which will ply the seven stations along the Malaysian stretch of the HSR route. The stations in Malaysia are Bandar Malaysia in KL, Putrajaya, Seremban (Negeri Sembilan), Ayer Keroh (Malacca), Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri in Johor.

A bridge 25m above sea level will link the HSR line between both countries. The stretch of the HSR is likely to be mostly underground on the Singapore side. The agreement also included the co-location of Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facilities at Singapore, Bandar Malaysia and Iskandar Puteri to allow for seamless travel. Passengers will undergo both Singapore and Malaysia clearance only at the point of departure.

Discussions on the HSR started in 2013. When the MOU was signed in July, Mr Lee and Mr Najib said it would enhance the ties of people and businesses on both sides of the Causeway. Stressing that the execution of the project was critical, Mr Lee had said the HSR would link communities and economies the way London-Paris, Taipei-Kaohsiung and Tokyo-Osaka connections have done.

The signing of the bilateral agreement today is part of the annual Malaysia-Singapore leaders’ retreat. Mr Lee was accompanied by his wife and a delegation comprising several Cabinet Ministers and office-holders, including Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

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