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Japan gears up for Malaysia-Singapore rail tender

  • May 3, 2017
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 11:15 pm JST
  • English Press

CK Tan, Nikkei staff writer

 

China, France and South Korea also eyeing region’s first high-speed project

 

Japan is stepping up its efforts ahead of a tender for the proposed 350 km high-speed rail linking Malaysia’s capital to Singapore.

 

With a track record in high-speed rail, known as the Shinkansen system, Japanese public and private sectors are coming together to pitch for the project, which has an estimated cost of 60 billion ringgit ($14 billion).

 

“We will push for a specific proposal involving financing, talent development and collaboration with local companies,” Keichi Ishii, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, told reporters on Wednesday.

 

Besides safety and reliability features, Japan is also promoting its cost-efficiency technology, through the use of light-body rolling stock, and in the construction of tracks and viaducts.

 

The minister is in Kuala Lumpur to attend a high-speed rail symposium, highlighting the safety and reliability of Shinkansen technology. He is expected to call on three Malaysian ministers involved in the high-speed rail project on Thursday before moving on to meet his Singapore counterpart.

 

The moves came as Malaysia said Wednesday that a land sale agreement related to the rail project involving a Chinese consortium had expired after payment defaults.

 

TRX City, a wholly-owned company of the Finance Ministry, had entered into a share sale agreement with the China Railway Engineering Corp-led consortium on Dec. 31 2015 for 60% of Bandar Malaysia, the location of the main station for the high-speed railway.

 

China Railway Engineering, a unit of state-owned China Railway Group, and its local partner Iskandar Waterfront Holdings, had agreed to pay 7.41 billion ringgit for the land, originally owned by troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad. The Chinese consortium was supposed to be the master developer of Bandar Malaysia.

 

The Malaysian government took over ownership of Bandar Malaysia from 1MDB under an asset liquidation process to raise cash for the debt-laden state fund.

It is not clear how the withdrawal of China Railway Engineering from the Bandar Malaysia land deal will affect China Railway Group, which had expressed interest in bidding for the high-speed railway project.

 

Malaysia and Singapore sealed a bilateral deal last December, paving the way for construction of the ambitious project through international tender.

 

The network is slated to be operating by the end of 2026 with three services — a Kuala Lumpur-Singapore express, a shuttle between the southern state of Johor and Singapore, and a domestic service between towns in Malaysia.

 

Reduced travel time

 

The train will have a maximum operating speed of 320kph and run on a double track with a single gauge. It will cut travel time between the capitals to 90 minutes, compared with nearly five hours by car.

 

The high-speed railway will connect Bandar Malaysia, the site of a former airforce camp in Kuala Lumpur, to Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri, before terminating at Jurong East in Singapore via a bridge over the Straits of Johor.

 

Both countries are on track to call for a tender by the end of the year to appoint a project management company, said Mohamed Nur Ismal Kamal, chief executive of MyHSR Corp., the state-owned company responsible for the project’s development.

 

The winning company will be responsible for the design and construction of the railway systems, including rolling stock, tracks, power, signalling and telecommunications.

 

The project, the first in Southeast Asia, has also attracted interest from France, and South Korea. Although the tender process has not begun, foreign companies have been pitching their capabilities in recent years through symposiums and displaying rolling stock replicas in malls.

 

Wednesday’s symposium was attended by Malaysian companies and a Japanese consortium that includes Sumitomo Corp., Mitsui Fudosan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Hitachi, JR East Railway, Nikkei Sekkei, Taisei Corp., Daiwa House Industry and NEC Corp.

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