Singapore-Malaysia high speed rail plans inch closer

UNDER the hot Hainanese sun, a bullet train speeds down the east side of China’s southernmost province. Leaving Haikou in the north, it passes coconut trees and building projects, skirting the South China Sea coast.

Its final destination is Sanya, about 300km to the south, which it reaches about 90 minutes later.

This is the Eastern Hainan High Speed Rail (HSR) line, one of the two fast train lines on the island.

 China may use this line as a model to build the planned 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR, a project which may kick off in the near future if the republic gets the bid. Tenders will open later this year.

Over the past few years, several countries with HSR technology have declared their interest to take on the project, said to carry a possible RM60bil price tag – one of the biggest transport projects in Malaysia.

It has been touted as one of the drivers for the Government’s quest towards a high-income economy, a goal it wants to achieve by 2020.

East Asia’s powerhouses – China, Japan and South Korea – have been making a strong push to develop the line.

In a pitch to selected reporters from Asia in Beijing, China’s national rail operator, the China Railway Corporation, said it was confident of having the upper hand.

“We have been paying attention to this KL-Singapore HSR project, and know that some other countries are also keen,” said its deputy chief engineer Zhao Guotang via an interpreter in April.