Thursday, 21 July 2016

Singapore-KL High Speed Rail targeted to start running around 2026

MOU signed for high-speed service that will cut journey to 90 minutes
By Janice Heng, In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

The much-anticipated high-speed rail (HSR) project to connect Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is targeted to be up and running in about 10 years' time, cutting travel time between the cities to 90 minutes compared with four hours by road.

The 2026 target is among points agreed on in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to pave the way for more detailed planning of the ambitious rail link.

The MOU was signed in Putrajaya yesterday, witnessed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak. It will guide the crafting of a legally binding bilateral deal to be signed by both governments towards the end of this year.

"There are one or two issues and some details that still need to be worked out, but the main picture is there," said Mr Lee. He was speaking at a joint press conference with Datuk Seri Najib, after the MOU was signed by Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister, and Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.



Some key points of agreement include the types of services, how the rail system will be run and where responsibility for its assets, like the trains and tracks, will lie.

Three services will run along the rail line that will have eight stations, of which only one will be in Singapore - at Jurong East.

These are: an express service between the two end-stations - Jurong East and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur; a shorter shuttle service connecting Singapore and Iskandar Puteri in Johor; and a domestic service linking the seven stations in Malaysia.

To run the cross-border services, a train operating company will be appointed in an international tender. Another firm will run the Malaysian domestic service.

The rail service, with a top speed of over 300kmh, will bring both cities closer, said the prime ministers.

Mr Najib said: "We'll not see Singapore as too distant, but two cities that are very closely connected in the true sense of the word."

Passengers will clear Customs and immigration for both authorities when departing the respective countries, and not upon arrival.


The economic gains are plentiful too, said the leaders. Mr Lee sees many spin-offs from the development of the regions around the terminus. And Mr Najib expects about 30,000 jobs to be created when the project gets under way.

But as with giant projects, the execution will be crucial, said Mr Lee. Both sides need to work closely, he said, "but we are all committed to putting full attention to this, because we want this major bilateral project to be done right".

While each government is responsible for developing, constructing and maintaining the civil infrastructure and stations in their own country, rail assets will come under an assets company to be appointed in an international tender.

Joint panels will be formed. One is a bilateral committee, with officials from both governments, to regulate the cross-border services.

The other is a joint project team to manage joint aspects of planning and development. It will prepare the tender for the HSR, expected to be issued next year, said Mr Najib, who earlier hosted a lunch for Mr Lee and his delegation.

University student Rachel Chia, 22, welcomed the HSR service. "If it is safe and reliable, it will be preferable to driving or taking the bus across the Causeway, as we would be able to skip the jams entirely."









Both sides committed to meeting tight timeline
Leaders to work closely together to get trains running by 2026
By Janice Heng, In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

By slashing travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to just 11/2 hours, the high-speed rail will draw the people and economies of both sides closer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Singaporeans can zip up to Kuala Lumpur, watch a show or do business, work on their laptops on the way back and be home for dinner, he said. "It will not seem like going overseas at all."

"We can think of Singapore-KL in the same way that people think of London-Paris, Taipei-Kaohsiung and Tokyo-Osaka," he added, citing major cities connected by fast rail.

When two cities are closely linked, both benefit, he said. "There's more competition but there's more business to be done. It means vitality, it means a wide variety of options, it means a more rapid pace of growth."

In short, the rail link will make it "very easy to get in touch to do business, to make friends, to be one integrated economy".



At a joint press conference in Putrajaya, Mr Lee and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak both acknowledged that the targeted timeframe to have the trains up and running by 2026 is "very tight".

But the two leaders said they were committed to working closely together to ensure it will be met.

PM Lee added in a Facebook post last night: "Good execution will be crucial. We need to work closely together on many joint decisions and implementation issues. PM Najib and I will give full attention to this, because we want this major project to be done right."

Both men also highlighted the spin-offs for regions along the line.

The express service from Jurong East in Singapore to Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur will pass through six other stations in Malaysia, such as Muar and Batu Pahat, without stopping. But separate services will connect these stations to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

In Singapore, the terminus will be part of the Jurong Lake District, slated to be Singapore's second Central Business District.



In a Facebook post, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong noted that construction could start as early as 2018.

The Jurong East terminus will also be connected to upcoming MRT stations on the Jurong Region Line and Cross Island Line to enable seamless transfers.

The high-speed rail and Jurong's rejuvenation, he said, are "important game-changers that will keep our economy strong and vibrant, create more good jobs and improve the quality of life for Singaporeans".

Yesterday's press conference was held after the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the project, which captured various points of agreement such as a 2026 target for the start of operations.

Calling it "a very ambitious timetable", PM Lee noted that MRT lines in Singapore typically take 12 to 15 years from inception to service.

He acknowledged that this rail project was on "a very tight timeline and there are many potential bumps". The global economy may or may not be an obstacle - as long as both countries set aside resources, the project will proceed.

"But the project itself has got many complexities. They all have to be put together like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle," he said. "And we must make sure that we can all do things right in order to get the project done in the most expeditious time."

One area in which agreement has yet to be reached is how to structure and evaluate the tender process, PM Lee noted when asked how both governments will ensure that this is fair and transparent.

Both governments will have to make a joint decision on questions such as how the project will be structured, how tenders will be called, the sequence of tenders, what each package will comprise, and how the tenders will be evaluated, he said.

"So that when we make the decision, we are quite sure that we get the best value and best choice for the project, and it's something that both sides will be working closely together on," he added.

Datuk Seri Najib stressed both countries' commitment to a fair tender process, saying: "We are both committed to ensuring this will happen. The image and integrity of both countries will be at stake."

The first tender will be called next month by a joint project team with members from Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Malaysia's MyHSR Corporation. This international tender is to appoint a joint development partner, which will provide technical support to both countries.

Separately, the LTA said it will call a tender next month for consultants to carry out advance engineering studies for the Singapore stretch of the rail line.

The study will cover the alignment of the rail link, the architectural and engineering design of the station, and noise and vibration issues.

The study is expected to start by the first quarter of next year and will take about 18 to 24 months to complete.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who signed the MOU on behalf of Singapore, hailed it as "a significant milestone" after three years of negotiations.

"Much hard work lies ahead but, for the moment, we can pause and celebrate!" he said.









Tender will be fair, transparent and objective: Najib
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the right business model would ensure that an ambitious 10-year timeline to implement the high-speed rail (HSR) link with Singapore is met despite volatility in the global economy.

Datuk Seri Najib stressed that the tender process for the project, expected to cost more than $17 billion, will be fair, transparent and objective as "the image and integrity of both countries will be at stake".

Speculation has been rife that the tens of billions that Chinese state enterprises have invested in Malaysia in recent months would sway the tender process.

"Get the business model right and we should be able to implement the project in time. Rest assured, the process will be carried out in the fairest possible way," Mr Najib said at a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the HSR was inked at his residence yesterday.




Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is in charge of the Economic Planning Unit that is Malaysia's lead department for the HSR, told reporters that fares would be "benchmarked against" airfares and driven by market forces.

"We are more inclined towards (a) private sector and market-driven business model," he said, when asked about who would run operations once the rail was ready.

Datuk Abdul Rahman, who signed the MOU with Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, did not reveal how the cost of the project would be split between the two sides. But he said "we have hammered out quite a bit of differences there".

With only 15km of the nearly 400km line running through Singapore, Malaysia will host six stops along its west coast before the HSR terminates in Bandar Malaysia, a new township being developed just south of Kuala Lumpur.

"You must remember the length of the track, much of it will be in Malaysia. But we are not looking at the length, we look at the cost because building 15km underground in Singapore will probably cost as much. It will be an equitable, fair percentage for both countries," Mr Abdul Rahman said of the financing responsibility for the project.

Although he and Mr Najib were coy on the cost, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani had earlier told reporters that the estimated figure would be upwards of RM50 billion (S$16.9 billion). He talked up the domestic service running from Kuala Lumpur, via Seremban, Malacca and across the Johor coast, as an "economic spine".

"We may not feel the real value but our future generations, imagine, even if you work in Singapore, you can travel from KL in 1.5 hours," he said.

Mr Najib also said the domestic service running from Johor to Kuala Lumpur would provide the stops with "new impetus in terms of its economic development".

"The short answer is that it will be a game-changer," he said.















Finance and cost issues to be ironed out
Service frequencies also need to be worked out as domestic, cross-border operators share the rail tracks
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

The agreement reached between Singapore and Malaysia on the commercial and operating model of the high-speed rail linking Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is a significant step in the joint project, but it remains to be seen how some key features will pan out, said observers.

Many issues remain to be finalised, such as financing, service frequencies and cost, they noted.

But Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, is confident these can be managed as both sides work out the details of a project that will boost links between the two.

One of the considerations for the project, analysts said, will be how much to charge operators to use the 350km of track, which will have both cross-border and domestic services running on it.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed yesterday, both governments agreed that there will be two train operators for the network - one running the cross-border services and another running the domestic service.

The former will operate the express 90-minute service between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, along with a shuttle service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri. The latter will run a domestic route, plying the seven stops within Malaysia.

These stops are: Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh, Seremban, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. The two operators will be appointed through joint tenders.

The Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute's Dr Francis Hutchinson said the MOU makes it clear who is responsible for the infrastructure in each country. "The shuttle service between Iskandar Puteri and Singapore is an elegant solution to the inter-connection between the domestic commuter service in Malaysia and the necessary connection with Singapore," he added.

SIM University economist Walter Theseira said: "There may be pressure to offer a discounted domestic service, which could mean that the international service may have higher fares per km covered. If so, charges to use the infrastructure may also differ by type of service."

Of the 350km track linking Jurong East to Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, 15km will be built in Singapore, while the remaining 335km stretch will be in Malaysia. Both governments have agreed to construct the civil infrastructure and stations in their own countries.

A privately-run assets company will be appointed through a joint tender to provide and maintain the trains, tracks and related systems such as signalling and power.

Both operators will pay a train lease fee to the assets company, and a track access charge and concession fee to both countries.

Singapore Management University transport economist Terence Fan pointed out that track charges and train leasing fees will have to be carefully calculated to ensure the system is profitable for the train operators, while still helping to recover the costs of the system.

While reports have said priority will be given to the express service, transport researcher Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore said: "Both train operating companies will need to share the tracks and the 'slots' will have to be negotiated." This, in turn, will affect the frequencies of the different services, he said.

Dr Lee added that the prices of the train tickets - which also affect the viability of the high-speed rail - have yet to be determined, but he expects them to be as competitive as budget airline fares.

Despite the challenges looming ahead, observers said the signing of the MOU was a key milestone.

"Much was expected when the project was first conceived in 2013 but progress was less than satisfactory," said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin of the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

He noted that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's strengthened political position following the Sarawak state elections and two by-elections puts him in a better position to see the project through.

Datuk Seri Najib said in a blog post last night: "I am excited and extremely committed in pursuing this project till completion."











More seamless travel with CIQ clearance at departure
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

Commuters using the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) will be able to enjoy more seamless travel, as they can clear Customs and immigration checks for both countries at their point of departure.

The governments of Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to co- locate Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities at three locations - Singapore, Iskandar Puteri and Kuala Lumpur - so that travellers between the two countries can walk right off the train when they reach their destination.

Here is how this will work: A person taking the train out of Singapore - whether to Kuala Lumpur, Iskandar Puteri or anywhere along the way - will have his passport checked at an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) counter at the Jurong East terminus.

He will then walk a short distance to Malaysian immigration counters at the same terminus and go through passport checks before boarding the train. Malaysian Customs officials may also inspect his luggage at the terminus.

There will be co-located CIQ facilities at the Kuala Lumpur terminus in Bandar Malaysia for those getting on the train in Kuala Lumpur.

This means ICA officers will be stationed at the Kuala Lumpur terminus, just as British Customs officers are stationed in Paris and Brussels for passengers taking a direct Eurostar train to London. Details of the CIQ clearance processes were agreed upon in a memorandum of understanding between Singapore and Malaysia yesterday.

The co-located facilities will offer "swift and seamless" travel, the countries said in a joint statement.

Passengers travelling on the domestic service from, say, Putrajaya to Singapore, will have to disembark at Iskandar Puteri and clear Customs there, before continuing their journey to Singapore on the shuttle service.

Once in Jurong East, they can walk off the train and head to their next destination.










Second phase of study on MRT extension to Johor
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

A project to extend the Thomson-East Coast Line north into Johor Baru is gaining traction, with the second phase of an advanced engineering study under way.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Singapore's Ministry of Transport said the study will take up to the second quarter of 2018 to complete. But it could be completed by the third quarter of next year, it said.

Both Singapore and Johor launched the joint study in April.

"Phase 2 is intended to develop the detailed engineering design for the rapid transit system project," a ministry spokesman said.

The Straits Times understands that this stage of the study will include a detailed look at the feasibility, merits and cost-effectiveness of various alignments, number of stops and whether the straits crossing will be made under the sea or via a bridge.

The project was first announced in 2010 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said then that the cross-border rapid transit project would be an extension of the Thomson-East Coast Line, and would be completed by 2018.

This was pushed to 2019 when Singapore decided to lengthen the Thomson-East Coast Line.

Since then, there had been little progress reported on the 4-5km extension, with Singapore saying it was waiting for Johor to decide on the location of its terminal station.

But last August, Malaysia confirmed that the station terminus would be in Bukit Chagar, just north of JB Sentral. The Bukit Chagar terminus will have its own customs and immigration facilities, according to the New Straits Times.

Separately, the LTA said it embarked on a ridership study of the Singapore-Johor Baru extension last month.

It said the study is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Construction industry watchers said the line is unlikely to be completed before 2020.











Singapore-KL High Speed Rail: MOU a significant step forward
It indicates firm commitment on both sides to high-speed rail project, and that major issues have been ironed out
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2016

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) may not be legally binding, but it represents a significant step for Singapore and Malaysia as the two countries work towards their most ambitious infrastructural venture to date.

It indicates that most of the major issues of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail link have been ironed out, and that the next step would be for lawyers to draft a more definitive and comprehensive document.

Hopefully, when all the i's are dotted and t's crossed, both sides will have a bilateral agreement soon, possibly in the next six months or so. Such an agreement will be legally binding and would hold even if there is a change of governments.

That would lend certainty to the mega project and, in turn, attract quality bidders to create a system that is superior and sustainable.

When the bilateral agreement is signed, tenders for an advanced engineering study could be called as early as next year, and civil works tenders could follow soon. If so, construction could begin around 2018, and take around seven years to complete. Testing and commissioning will then follow.

At this juncture, the MOU is the firmest commitment to a project that has been on the drawing board for at least 20 years.

A high-speed rail connection between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur has been discussed since the mid-1990s. But the gears were engaged only in 2013, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak agreed on such a project at an annual leaders' retreat.

For such a complex project that neither side has any experience in, three years to reach an MOU is fairly swift progress.

The two sides said yesterday that they would work towards a line that is up and running by 2026 - just 10 years away. Of course, delays are common in such mega projects. The Hong Kong-Guangzhou high-speed rail link, the California bullet train project, and the Haramain high-speed line in Saudi Arabia are just three current projects that are facing delays.

But even if the Singapore-KL project opens in 2030, it is not too far on the horizon.



Why a high-speed rail link in the first place, though? Aren't Singapore and KL already linked by road, traditional rail and air services?

The answer lies in the unmatched connectivity and convenience that a high-speed train system offers. In terms of capacity and frequency, a bullet train is unbeatable. One train will be carrying what five Airbus A-320s carry, and will have a fraction of the plane's turnaround time. In terms of convenience, the customs and immigration clearance for rail is often much faster than that for air travel.

Also, stations are not as far-flung from city centres as airports.

It is good news that the Singapore-KL line will have an express service linking the two cities. This is likely to have priority over the domestic services linking six cities in between.

There will also be a shuttle service between Iskandar Puteri and Singapore. Co-located Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facilities in Singapore, Iskandar Puteri and Kuala Lumpur will allow travellers to achieve clearance at the point of departure, and not at the point of arrival.

This will boost convenience. The Iskandar Puteri-Singapore shuttle will be popular for the many Singaporeans who have set up second homes in Johor, and could encourage even more to consider a second or third property there.

The road link between the two locations is often fraught with congestion at the Tuas or Causeway checkpoints, which could turn a 30-minute drive into a three-hour nightmare. A high-speed rail link could mean dependable 15-minute commutes between Iskandar Puteri and Jurong East - a breeze.

Breezy and seamless access has to underpin a high-speed rail connection. Because unlike a road link, where the externalities of poor design and slow customs clearance are borne by individuals who choose to travel at a certain time, inefficient passenger flow (in this case, at departure) could hold up train runs, and affect the commercial viability of the operators. This, in turn, will impact the attractiveness and sustainability of a multibillion- dollar project that would have been 30 years in the making by the time the first train departs.








Politics and money will drive new high-speed trains
The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project must take into account potential obstacles in 'trackside' politics, financial and operational management, and terrorist threats
By Wu Shang-su and Alan Chong, Published The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2016

There is much to celebrate over the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail (HSR) this week.

It signifies the emergence of another avenue of convenient transportation between the two close neighbours and a sure sign of closer economic integration within the spirit of the Asean Economic Community. It would also be the first non-European HSR line connecting capitals if it is completed earlier than the planned line between Bangkok and Vientiane.

For Singapore, the HSR is not simply about building another mass rapid transit line with either underground or above ground stations and tunnels on state owned or acquired land. It literally requires laying the tracks for a large-scale international undertaking that will displace some landscapes and introduce new modes of governing the project through corporate and governmental bodies.

TRACKSIDE ENGINEERING

Selecting the HSR line during the engineering study is much more than implementing straightforward technical planning. Due to the high costs of land procurement, construction and maintenance, modern rail transportation usually faces initial difficulties in achieving a satisfactory financial balance. Some HSR projects struggle for years before turning a profit. The Eurotunnel linking Britain and France turned profitable only after 26 years.

In this regard, most HSR firms, including those in Japan and South Korea, emphasise urban development - think of factories, airports, restaurants, cinemas and shopping outlets - particularly around new stations, as crucial for profitability. In the Malaysian political context, such land development projects would unavoidably involve managing the interests of both the federal and state governments. Therefore, building HSR lines could require political bargains that may result in detours, or even impasse, in striking an agreement amongst various political forces.

Another complicating scenario could also play out after a deal for HSR has been inked. Elections may take place, redrawing the political landscape and along with it, the Cabinet of the ruling government. This may lead to review of high-cost items like the HSR. This is understandable since Malaysia and Singapore are both democracies, where public opinion is given significant expression during general and local elections.

MULTIPLICITY OF OPERATORS

The complex operation of three kinds of trains by two operators for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR would pose an equally significant and very different challenge. The domestic or local service inside Malaysia, and the international service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri (formerly Nusajaya), would not affect each other due to their distinct corporate jurisdictions.

However, the international and domestic trains may mutually interrupt one another's timetables if not planned consensually and in tandem.

Ideally, a properly arranged timetable could make both operate optimally, but an accidental delay on either service may ruin it in real time since the capacity on tracks is exclusively fixed. It requires building in sufficient buffers in the timetable and proficient crews to ensure precise operation.

Nevertheless, the coordination between two companies may not be ideal on a daily operational basis due to differences in personalities and bureaucratic cultures, even if their relations have been sanctioned by their respective governments. If the operator for domestic trains is fully Malaysian, and the one for the international express is a bilateral joint venture, nationality may yet constitute an additional barrier.

FINANCE AND PRICING

A third operational difficulty is finance. With operating deficits common among most HSR operators around the world, the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR may not be an exception. Despite the possibility of bilateral commuting services theoretically becoming profitable, the construction and maintenance costs would surely rely on overall income. Commercial aviation will be the main competitor for the HSR, but redirecting large numbers of aerial passengers to the HSR may not be feasible.

Currently, there are about 45 daily flights between the two capitals and this figure represents a benchmark. If the average capacity of each flight is about 200 passengers, the maximum amount of passengers carried in both directions would be 9,000 daily. Since one HSR train can seat a maximum of 1,000 passengers, according to the news reports, the volume of passengers flown daily can only be matched by 10 to 15 uninterrupted train services per day.

This is expecting the HSR to perform at peak capacity every time without fail - a very tall order indeed. The viability of passenger travel options currently offered by cars and buses on Malaysia's North-South Highway and the conventional trains operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) would in turn be determined by the price of HSR tickets. This creates a dilemma.

If the HSR charges too much, passenger traffic would not significantly contribute to its finances. If the HSR tickets are priced too low for recouping its sunk costs, increased passenger volume may not adequately compensate but contribute to overall financial deterioration. So much depends on whether passengers are willing to trade money for time.

The purchasing power disparities between Singaporean and Malaysian passengers would further complicate the issue. Thus, the balance between the number of passengers and sunk costs would be an important issue. When a healthy financial position becomes unattainable, finding solutions could subject Singaporean and Malaysian officials to difficult choices, given their different bureaucratic approaches.

TERRORIST THREAT

As seen over the last six years in locations as diverse as Madrid, the Amsterdam-Paris route and just days ago in Germany, both HSR and conventional railways are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Travelling at a high speed of more than 250 kmh, any engineering malfunction or onboard incidents ultimately triggering engineering mishaps could produce serious consequences.

Although most HSR lines are protected with fences and walls, it may be possible for terrorists to penetrate the system disguised as employees. For them, merely tinkering with some switches would be enough to trigger a crash within seconds. Tighter security checks in employment within the HSR would thus be necessary.

Terrorists may masquerade as normal passengers. Security measures used in protecting aviation could be directly applied in this regard, such as baggage scans, body searches and so forth. It is expensive and not easy to protect entire HSR lines extending across open country and difficult terrain.

Bridges and tunnels could always be properly observed and analysed by terrorists to find effective ways to attack. Buffer zones, surveillance systems and patrols may on the other hand help alleviate some of the threats. The co-location of customs facilities at three locations on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR will also have to be upgraded to facilitate joint monitoring of potential terrorist targets either in terms of passengers, company personnel or railway hardware.

All in all, the viability of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR is contingent upon both governments' sustained commitment to a long-term, win-win arrangement. It remains to be seen if the will to succeed prevails over the challenges in operationalising this game-changing project.

Wu Shang-su is a research fellow and Alan Chong is an associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.















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