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Thursday, February 21, 2013

RM30b budget for high-speed rail project


KUALA LUMPUR: The government is budgeting around RM30 billion for the high-speed rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, according to people familiar with the matter.

This confirms a Business Times report last year that said the HSR project may cost between RM25 billion and RM30 billion to develop.

It is also learnt that the HSR project will involve a new alignment covering 350km.

The alignment will be starting from Kuala Lumpur and pass through Seremban, Malacca, Pagoh, Batu Pahat and the Iskandar Malaysia region before ending at the Tuas checkpoint in Johor Baru.

Sources said 60 per cent of the projected cost will go towards infrastructure development, which includes civil works and laying of tracks, while about 30 per cent will go towards the purchase of rolling stocks.

It is unclear if the RM30 billion allocation will also involve the crossover to Singapore.

Malaysia and Singapore are mulling whether to build an overhead crossing between the two countries or opt for the costlier underwater tunnel, sources said.

"The HSR project is important for Malaysia as the same alignment can carry freight during off-peak hours. This will benefit KTM Bhd (the national railway company), which is facing depleting cargo volume and revenue," a source said.

Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday agreed to build the HSR link between the two countries, with a target completion of 2020.
The decision was made after a Land Public Transport Commission feasibility study found that the project is viable.

The rail link will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes, which at the moment can take up to eight hours by train, around five hours by bus and car, and 45 minutes by plane.

The source said the fare is being discussed, although the government is considering between RM350 and RM400 for a one-way trip.

"The public is only willing to pay around RM250 to RM300 per journey. But it won't be feasible to peg it at that range due to the project's massive investment cost," the source said.

"The HSR is for the public and it will provide added convenience and safety as well as save travel time and money," the source added.

The HSR link will also complement another rail project - the Rapid Transit System Link - that will link Johor Baru and Singapore's Thomson Line, which is expected to be ready by 2019.

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