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Date [ 2013-02-25, 17:15 ]

The railway in Malaysia is considered a lumbering leviathan but the situation is set to change.

- Old Singapore Railway Station

(Singapore=Koreanpress)  by John Kim = The Economic Transformation Programme is the Malaysian government’s plan to turn Malaysia into a high income economy by the year 2020.

There are 131 entry point projects identified under the National Key Economic Areas ( NKEA). One of which includes a high speed railway connecting Penang to Singapore.  This has moved a step forward by Singapore and Malaysia agreeing to build a new high-speed rail link. But this is planned only from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.

The cost is expected to be between MYR20bn and MYR30bn with travel time reduced from six hours to around 90 minutes. Currently, it takes around six hours by diesel engine to cover the 315km distance between the two cities.

The Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia issued a joint statement that stated the project will improve connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore.  Left unsaid were the prospects of further improved relations between the two countries.

Over the years, relations between them have blown hot and cold. One issue was the land owned by Kereta Api Tanah Melayu (KTM), which has the track running from Woodlands to the terminal at Tanjong Pagar. According to the agreements leading up to the independence of Singapore, the land on which the railway ran on was owned by KTM, and would remain so as long as the rail system was in operation. This arrangement had erupted into several spates of diplomatic disputes between the two countries. Land-scarce Singapore was keen to move the railway station to either Woodlands or Kranji, and therefore freeing  large tracts of land for redevelopment. In return, the Singaporean government was willing to offer a plot of prime land in the Marina Bay area for development by the Malaysians, although this concession was not required according to the original agreements. The negotiations were stalled, however, when the Malaysians were unimpressed with the compensation amount, and expressed concern over accessibility should the railway station be moved further from the city centre. Finally  an agreement was  endorsed  in 2011 that had only one KTM railway terminal at the  Woodlands Train Checkpoint.

After which, plans to build a high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had been mooted, especially a Penang–Singapore High Speed Rail. But nothing came of it, until now!

Now that relations have improved between the two countries, the rapid rail project is seen as the tangible proof. Thus joint statements were made, that espoused  a “…seamless travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, enhance business linkages, and bring the peoples of Malaysia and Singapore closer together. Ultimately, this project will give both countries greater stake in each other's prosperity and success."

So far, no cost estimate has been given for the rail link. However, Malaysian Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak has indicated the new high-speed rail link would be built by a public-private partnership with strong structural support and participation from the two governments...

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was confident the project would create a faster travel link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore by rail than by air, including waiting time.

It is understood, both countries have made the Iskandar Malaysia Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) responsible for finalising the details, including the cost of the high-speed rail link.

Seen as major breakthrough in diplomatic relations, a new customs, immigration and quarantine facilities will be built at Puteri Harbour in Malaysia's Iskandar zone. This should ease entry and departure between the two countries, once the rapid rail starts operations.  


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