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Malaysia-Singapore High-Speed Railway

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said 31 May 2018 he will ditch a planned high-speed rail link with Singapore, a move that would likely damage the interests of China or other economic partners. Companies from China, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Singapore and Malaysia were reportedly eyeing contracts to build and operate the project, but now all of their efforts may be in vain due to the inconsistency and capriciousness of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia and Singapore opened the tender process on 20 December 2017 for a project to build a high-speed train railway linking the 2 countries. The new service will cover the 350-kilometers between Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Singapore in 90 minutes. The 2 countries hope to start the service in 2026. The 2 nations' state-run companies in charge of the project issued a statement saying bidders would have until June 2018r to submit their proposals.

The winner will be responsible for building and managing all rolling stock, as well as rail assets such as tracks, telecommunications and signaling for the rail network. A qualified bidder will be selected by the end of 2018.

Japan and China had shown willingness to join the tender. The governments of Singapore and Malaysia have invited not only companies from those 2 countries, but also others from Europe to take part, in an apparent effort to seek the best possible conditions. Competition to win high-speed rail contracts in Asia is getting fierce among Japan, China and some other countries. Japan's Shinkansen technology was adopted in India, while China won a deal in Indonesia.

By April 2016 Chinese companies were widely considered as the forerunner for the proposed high-speed railway project linking the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. A series of recent investments by Chinese state-owned companies have helped to lay the ground for the bid for the 350 km high-speed railway. In March 2016, China Railway Group Limited (CREC), one of China's largest state-owned companies, announced a 2 billion-U.S. dollar investment to build its regional headquarter in Bandar Malaysia, the proposed terminal for the Kuala Lumpur to Singapore line. In December 2016, Malaysia and Singapore formalized the details on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project. The countries will solicit two international tenders by the end of 2017.

On the railway bid, China faced competitors from Japan, South Korea, France and several other countries. One of the advantages of the Chinese side is the experience of working with Malaysia on the latter's regular railway system and light rail transit projects. Chinese companies have supplied about 75 to 80 percent of the locomotives and coaches and related equipment to Malaysia. China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has built a manufacturing center for Southeast Asia in Malaysia.

Following news in early 2017 that Thailand and Malaysia were set to begin talks on the construction of a 1,500-kilometer high-speed railway (HSR) linking Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Chinese experts said that Chinese HSRs have more merits than their Japanese competitor - called shinkansen. The Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur railway will be a new addition to the 3,900-kilometer pan-Asia railway network that is already taking shape. Chinese experts said it makes more sense for customers to choose a Chinese solution, as owning two systems will backfire in terms of maintenance.

The pan-Asia railway network is tied into China's "One Belt and One Road" (B&R) initiative. Formally called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the B&R initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 to boost connectivity and trade among Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The pan-Asia railway's long-term goal is to allow trains to run to Singapore from Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Malaysian and Singaporean governments signed a bilateral agreement in December 2016 to construct the high speed rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The construction was set to complete by 2026.

Malaysia had commenced the land acquisition process for Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (KL-SG HSR), and has approved the public inspection exercise which will start next month, said the country's Prime Minister Najib Razak on 17 October 2017. Najib said that MyHSR Corporation (MyHSR Corp), the Malaysian government's project delivery vehicle for the rail project, has submitted its applications to the relevant government authorities for land freezing purposes, an essential process to study the viability of the pre-selected areas.

Malaysia and Singapore are postponing the construction of a high-speed railway linking the two countries. The two sides signed an agreement on 07 September 2018 to delay work on the railway until the end of May 2020. It would connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in 90 minutes. The 2 countries now plan to open the rail link on January 1st, 2031. The new date represents a delay of 4 years from the schedule under the initial plan. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had been calling for deferment of the project after he took office earlier this year. He cited the financial strain it would cause his country. International bidding for providing railway cars and other equipment is also suspended. Japanese and Chinese firms have been vying to win orders. Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali told reporters that the agreement clearly shows a commitment to continue the project. Malaysia and Singapore say they will discuss ways to cut costs.



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