New Straits Times Online
14th December, 2016

TOKYO: MALAYSIA and Singapore are set to ink a legally binding bilateral agreement on Dec 5 for the development of a high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will witness the signing of the agreement at their annual talks in Johor, diplomats told the New Straits Times

The draft agreement is pending cabinet approval. The pact will also touch on detailed cost- and revenue-sharing aspects of the project. The bilateral pact followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Putrajaya on July 19 paving the way for more detailed planning and development of the ambitious rail link. Both governments have also endorsed many pertinent issues which were captured in the MoU. These areas of agreement include a target of 2026 for the HSR to begin operations, Malaysian and Singapore transport authorities have said.

Following advance works, construction of the HSR is expected to begin in 2018, allowing for ample time for test runs before the commercial operations in 2026. The much-awaited KL-Singapore HSR — Southeast Asia’s first — will cut the travelling time between the city pair to just 90 minutes. The fast train will pass through another six stations in Malaysia. They are Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri.

The trains will have a design speed of 350kph, MyHSR Corp chief executive officer Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal said. Operating speed will likely be around 300kph for most of the stretch, depending on how much they have to slow down in urban areas, he told the NST. Nur Ismal also said a bilateral committee with representatives from both governments will be formed after the signing of the bilateral agreement to manage and regulate aspects of the project, which might affect cross-border services. They will provide regulatory oversight for the HSR. The regulatory aspect would cover technical, commercial and security, among others. MyHSR is a government-owned company responsible for the development and promotion of the HSR project. Besides the non-stop Singapore-KL international service and the transit service within Malaysia, there will be a shuttle service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri.

In the agreement, both sides will also decide whether to build a tunnel or a bridge across the Johor Strait to link the HSR. Under the pact, passengers will be able to clear Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) at their point of departure. Malaysia and Singapore will co-locate these CIQ facilities at three sites — Bandar Malaysia, Jurong East and Iskandar Puteri. Najib has said that the HSR will enhance people-to-people ties and improve business linkages between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Singapore PM Lee has described the 2026 target as “a very ambitious timetable”, but said his government was committed to put full attention to the project.

“But we must get this right, because the HSR will bring our two countries together and change the way each of us thinks of the other,” he added.