Malaysia, Singapore sign landmark Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) agreement

PUTRAJAYA (13 Dec, 2016): Malaysia and Singapore have signed the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) bilateral agreement that will cut travel time between both countries to just 90 minutes.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing of the landmark deal during the 7th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat here on Tuesday.

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) bilateral agreement agreement was signed at 5.15pm between Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan and Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also witnessed the signing ceremony.

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) bilateral agreement signing

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) bilateral agreement signing.  Photo credit: The Star         

The document is a follow-up to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by both countries on July 19, and outlines further plans and details for the development of the expansive rail project.

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) service is targeted to be up and running by 2026 and will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes, with trains designed to reach maximum speeds of 300km per hour.

The rail line will stretch 350km, with 335km in Malaysia starting from Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and 15km in Singapore, ending at Jurong East.

Apart from reducing travel time between the countries to just 90 minutes, the spillover effects from the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project also include enhancing business ties and improving people-to-people relations.

The signing of the agreement is a culmination of intensive bilateral discussions since the 2013 Leaders’ Retreat, and furthers the good progress made by both countries since a memorandum of understanding was signed in July, the PMO statement said.

“It also demonstrates the two governments’ commitment to the project, which will boost connectivity, strengthen economic ties and enhance people-to-people linkages when completed,” the statement added.

It will have six transit stations in Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri.

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project will be administered by MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd, which has been incorporated as a company wholly-owned by Malaysia’s Finance Ministry.

According to MyHSR, bids for the tender to build the line will be evaluated at the end of 2018.

Tender documents for the systems package – for the actual rail track and train carriages – will be issued at the end of next year, said MyHSR chief executive Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal last week.

Three services will run along the eight-station, dual-track line.

There will be an express service between the two terminal stations – Jurong East in Singapore and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur; a shorter shuttle service will connect Singapore and Iskandar Puteri in Johor; and a domestic service will link the seven stations in Malaysia.

The customs, immigration and quarantine facilities for the railway will be co-located at three stops which are Singapore, Iskandar Puteri in Johor and Bandar Malaysia in KL.

International-bound travellers will need to clear immigration and Customs only when departing the respective countries.

Several countries are currently bidding for the project including Japan, China and South Korea.

Najib, in a press conference later, said that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project was “commercially viable” and would not face any funding problems.

“This HSR project is commercially viable. I think that’s the key to it. Once it is commercially viable, then we will be able to get long-term financing for this project.

“We do not envisage problems in getting long term financing. In fact, those who want to participate in this project can make available certain financial arrangements for us to consider as part of their package. So, that will something that can be resolved,” he said.

Najib, who is also the finance minister, said both parties were committed in meeting the 2026 deadline, despite the mammoth size of the project.

“It’s about 10 years, but as you know, the size of this project, the complexity of this project, 10 years is a relatively short period of time, which means we have to work very closely together,” Najib stressed.

Lee meanwhile said he was optimistic to have his first HSR train ride to Putrajaya in a decade when the project is completed.

“This is a significant milestone in our relationship. This will transform the way we interact, socialise and do businesses.

“It is a complex project and we are making long term commitments, but there is political will on both sides. I’m looking to take my first train ride to Putrajaya in 10 years,” he said with a laugh.

Addressing security concerns, Lee said the Malaysian-Singapore border was among the “busiest international borders in the world” and both parties can’t just shut their doors.

“We cannot close our borders because of security. We must make the borders more secure. It is the busiest international border in the world,” he said.

The Singaporean leader also urged for closer ties between border agencies to ensure that security is prioritised while making it comfortable for travel.

“We want to make quite sure that it is safe, secure and convenient for customers. That means there must be trust and understanding and mutual agreement from both sides.

“We need this for both HSR and RTS and we will make it work,” Lee said, referring to the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project, in which Malaysia’s Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) service will be extended to connect with Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to reduce traffic.

Earlier in the afternoon, Najib and Lee held a four-eyed meeting followed by a delegation meeting as part of the leaders’ retreat.

The Annual Leaders’ Retreat is an annual event hosted rotationally between Malaysia and Singapore.

The inaugural Leaders’ Retreat was held in May 2007 in Langkawi, Malaysia, and has since been a forum for both countries to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

In 2015, Singapore was Malaysia’s second largest trading partner globally. Last year, total trade between the two countries was recorded at US$59.5 billion (RM190.6 billion).

Also present were Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa as well as other ministers and senior government officials from both countries.

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