Thursday, 7 May 2015

Singapore-KL high-speed rail terminal will be in Jurong East: Leaders' Retreat 2015

Rail link to Kuala Lumpur a 'game-changer' but it won't be finished by 2020
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

THE terminus for the high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be sited in Jurong East, a move that is in line with plans for the area to be Singapore's second central business district.

But the ambitious rail link, billed by the leaders of both countries as a "game-changer", will not be completed by the original target of 2020.

The new target date will be announced after both sides have agreed on all major issues of the project. And the deadline for this agreement is the end of this year.

Speaking to reporters after their annual retreat yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart Najib Razak said the 2020 date was unrealistic owing to the complexity of the 350km route.

But both pledged their full commitment to realising the link, calling it the most important project on the current bilateral agenda.

First conceived at their 2013 retreat, the high-speed link will cut travel time between Singapore and KL to 90 minutes.

The delay, they said, would not be a major one. Datuk Seri Najib estimated the design process would take a year, the tender process another year, and then five years to build the link.

"We're confident it will come through," said PM Lee.

He also said the terminus would "change the face" of Jurong, creating opportunities for businesses and citizens.

In response to reporters' questions, PM Lee explained why Jurong East was chosen over the other options of the city centre and Tuas. While the city centre would be the most convenient for commuters, there is little space left for such an ambitious construction project, he said. And while construction works would be the easiest in Tuas, there are few businesses there, he added.

The Government has ambitious plans for the Jurong Lake District, and the terminus dovetails with them, he said.

Analysts said the news would boost property values and interest in the Jurong Gateway area, with some predicting that multinational companies would relocate their offices there.

Malaysia had previously said its terminus would be sited in the Bandar Malaysia project, 3km from KL's financial district.

The leaders disclosed that agreement on some issues has been reached, such as that the depot and stabling facilities would be hosted by Malaysia.

But PM Lee sketched out some major questions yet to be answered: "How is the line going to be designed? Where is the funding going to come from? How is the debt and equity going to be divided between the two parties?"

Structurally, it must also be decided if each country builds its own part of the line and they join in the middle, or if one company builds the entire line.

PM Lee noted that there are global models like the cross-border Eurostar between Paris and London. "So I don't see them as insoluble problems. We're getting there. We just need a bit more time to work everything out."

The famous camaraderie between the two men - credited with facilitating a breakthrough on thorny bilateral issues - was on display again at their sixth leaders' retreat, which marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

The duo also discussed a wide range of issues, including Iskandar Malaysia, congestion on the Causeway and the building of the Johor River Barrage to ensure water supply from the Johor River to Singapore.

"All the fundamentals are strong between our two countries," said Mr Najib.

On his Facebook page yesterday, PM Lee later wrote: "Our bilateral ties are warm and we are working well together. Long may this continue."

Singapore-Malaysia ties 'have never been better'

"I am delighted that relations between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and me, and therefore between our two governments, are now so warm - indeed, I think it would be no exaggeration to say they have never been better in our countries' histories.

This closeness and the agreements that follow are of tangible economic and security benefit to all Malaysians and Singaporeans. This should be the priority of national leaders - the people's interests above all else."

- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Economic Society of Singapore's annual dinner last night, where he spoke on ties between Malaysia and Singapore

MRT link to JB unlikely before 2020
No decision yet on site for Johor station
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

HOPPING onto an MRT train and arriving in Johor Baru is unlikely to be a reality before 2020, as Malaysia has yet to determine a station site for its end of the line.

This Rapid Transit System link was first announced by Singapore and Malaysia in May 2010, and was initially targeted to be ready by 2018.

This was pushed to 2019 when Singapore decided to lengthen the Thomson Line - to which the cross-border MRT line will link.

Rail construction experts said even if work started today, the line would be completed by 2020 at the earliest. But work is unlikely to start any time soon because no decision has yet been made on where the JB station will be.

At a leaders' retreat here yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said this should be resolved "by the time we meet again".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said "we're ready to progress it as soon as both sides are ready".

The Straits Times understands that even if the station site is confirmed next month, construction cannot start immediately.

Another technical study will be done to determine the various options for the way the line runs - whether above ground, underground, or a combination of the two.

Then a detailed design of the line, along with other technical specifications, will be done.

Approval by the relevant authorities on both sides of the Causeway will follow.

And because it is a project by two different countries, how it is financed and operated will have to be discussed and agreed upon too. These discussions could take 12 months to 18 months, before a construction tender is called.

The tender process will take another six months.

By the time construction starts, it would be mid-2017. That is, if the station site is decided by next month.

Mr Yong Mee Him, director of construction company Woh Hup - which has clinched a number of MRT projects - said it would take around five years to build the line "if everything goes smoothly".

Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of engineering firm KTC group and former head of rail projects at the Land Transport Authority, said meeting the 2019 deadline "is going to be a tough call".

If the Johor station is to be at JB Sentral, an existing train station next to the popular City Square shopping mall, the line would be 4km to 5km long.

That would mean constructing 8km to 10km of train tunnels, assuming that the line is underground.

Hence, tunnelling alone would take over a year, as the average speed of a tunnel boring machine is 24m a day.

Land occupied by golf course a likely terminus site: Analysts
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

THE site of Singapore's high- speed rail (HSR) terminus could be in the south-eastern region of the Jurong Lake District, experts said.

They pointed to a 1.02 million sq ft plot of land - sandwiched between Jurong Town Hall Road and the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) - as a likely location for the upcoming terminus.

Besides being designated as a reserve site in future land development plans, there is also a group of land parcels adjacent to it which has been set aside for hotels.

"To support this hotel cluster, you need something which can bring huge numbers of people into Singapore, such as a HSR," said Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate consultancy.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed that the Singapore terminus for the HSR link to Kuala Lumpur will be in the Jurong Lake District in Jurong East.

This will dovetail with plans to develop the area into a second central business district, he said.

Experts said the land plot along Jurong Town Hall Road is just outside Jurong Gateway, a 70ha commercial hub, and also close to the Jurong East bus and train interchange, which serves two MRT lines.

The land plot is currently occupied by JTC's iHub building and the Jurong Country Club golf course.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said that more land south of the Jurong Lake District could be made available, if proposed plans to realign a stretch of the AYE between Yuan Ching Road and Jurong Town Hall Road materialise.

Dr Lee said: "A large portion of Jurong East is occupied by housing, so we don't really have much available land."

Residents in Jurong East, while looking forward to having the HSR terminus in their backyard, expressed concern about the increase in human and vehicular traffic to the area.

"The capacity of the MRT trains and the interchanges has to be increased," said Mr Colin Seow, 25, who just graduated from university.

SIM University's urban transport management expert Park Byung Joon said two more MRT lines being planned - the Cross Island Line and the Jurong Region Line - will help to increase the transport capacity in the area.

On the bright side, some residents are also looking at new travel options.

"It's a big plus point if I can travel to KL in 90 minutes for a weekend trip," said Ms Allvina Lee, 37, who works in purchasing.

Jurong property owners cheer rail news
By Rennie Whang, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

SITING the high-speed rail terminus in the Jurong Lake District will deliver higher property prices and rev up commercial and retail activity in the area, said experts yesterday.

They also noted after yesterday's announcement that the district is already well set up to take advantage of the boost.

The Jurong East location - at the interchange of the East-West, North-South and upcoming Jurong Region MRT lines - makes it highly convenient for commuters.

It is a rich hunting ground for business as well.

Jurong Gateway, with 500,000 sq m of offices, 250,000 sq m of retail, food and beverage and entertainment space and 2,800 hotel rooms, will become "the most ideal suburban location for company headquarters, business services, education and science and technology sectors", said Ms Christine Li, research director at Cushman & Wakefield, yesterday.

The moderate occupancy costs that come with a decentralised location would attract multinational corporations, said Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia.

Many companies in various sectors have already moved in, said Ms Li. New entrants could be businesses in Malaysia, particularly companies from places such as Nusajaya, Malaccaand Batu Pahat - stops on the high-speed line.

Owners of commercial and industrial assets in the area cheered yesterday's announcement.

Retailers are rubbing their hands with glee too, noting that the Jurong area will become attractive to a "larger catchment of shoppers and office workers with new developments including the high-speed rail terminal", said Ms Jenny Khoo, general manager of Jem, a mixed-use development.

Spokesmen for the managers of real estate investment trusts with assets in the International Business Park in Jurong East said their tenants would benefit from the added accessibility and vibrancy.

An official at Mapletree Industrial Trust said it anticipated higher demand for space at its two buildings when the rail line is completed.

MCL Land, which is developing Lakeville in Jurong West Street 41, won a neighbouring condominium site in March.

Chief executive Koh Teck Chuan said it looks forward to attracting more international buyers for the two projects.

Non-landed property prices in Jurong in the first quarter fell about 8 per cent from the final three months of 2014 to an average of $947.15 per sq ft due to cooling measures, but average non-landed rents rose about 6 per cent over the same period to $3.30 psf per month, said PropNex Realty chief executive Mohd Ismail Gafoor. He added that "property prices in this developing region are expected to slowly appreciate over the next decade".

Glamour heads to Jurong East at high speed
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

A HIGH-SPEED rail station in Jurong East will be another jewel in the crown of what was once an unlikely urban area, but which is now getting shinier by the day.

The area is part of a bold mixed-use precinct dubbed the Jurong Lake District. It spans 360ha - the size of Marina Bay - and it will be the biggest commercial hub outside the Central Business District (CBD).

For those still unconvinced that this sleepy hollow in the west will be a bustling live-work-play district of the future, a high-speed rail station should put the doubts to rest. Besides the obvious advantage of a doorstep access to superior-to-air cross-border connectivity, it adds much needed glamour to the area.

Why? Well, simply because high-speed trains are still relatively rare and, by that token, futuristic and exciting. Since Japan started running its shinkansen 50 years ago, only 15 other countries have built high-speed rail lines. (In contrast, 126 metro systems have been built in 50 countries over the same period.)

Air travel is passe, but the image of a sleek, wind-cheating bullet train hurtling at speeds of up to 400kmh fires the imagination. Japan recently set a new record with a magnetic levitation train that breached 600kmh.

Door-to-door, high-speed rail travel is often faster than flying for journeys that are less than 500km - not to mention more comfortable, safer, less carbon-intensive and, often, cheaper.

Train stations are also far less intrusive than airports. They take up a fraction of the space necessary for an airport, and do not pose the kind of developmental restrictions in their vicinity that airports do.

Stations can be built below ground, so that surface development is not impeded. In fact, it is even possible to have an underground train depot.

So a high-speed rail station is definitely good for Jurong East. But is Jurong East good for a high-speed rail line?

From a purely accessibility point of view, the area is far from ideal for such major transport infrastructure. More often than not, high-speed rail lines connect city centre to city centre.

But who is to say Jurong East won't be a city centre of the future? In fact, by the time the line is up and running (possibly nearer to 2030 than 2020), the entire Jurong Lake District might rival Singapore's present downtown.

The area is a catchment for more than one million residents in nearby towns. Currently, there are some 3,000 companies in nearby Jurong, Tuas and one-north.

The area is served by three MRT stations, with an integrated bus interchange coming up next to the Jurong East interchange.

Development plans include 500,000 sq m of office space, 250,000 sq m of retail, more than 1,000 new homes, and 2,800 hotel rooms (with recently opened Genting Hotel Jurong making up the first 557).

The Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, next to the Jurong Community Hospital, opens next month.

Future MRT lines like the Cross Island Line and Jurong Region Line will complement the North-South and East-West lines that currently serve the area.

"Smart city" experiments are to be carried out in the area, with more than 1,000 sensors installed to control and monitor everything from traffic to street lights, and crowded buses.

For the "chill" factor, Singapore's first Olympic-size ice-skating rink is in JCube - a cube-shaped mall that also boasts the first Imax cinema in the suburbs.

Then, there is the sprawling Jurong Lake Gardens - an amalgamation of Jurong Lake Park, Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden. Waterfront homes and water sports will be par for the course in the reconfigured Jurong Lake. The Ayer Rajah Expressway may even be realigned to free up more space for this.

In short, the Government is pulling out all the stops to make Jurong Lake District not just a CBD clone, but a place that is unlike any here - one that is self-contained, highly wired, well connected and, above all, fun.

Malaysia is doing the same for its end of the line. It is putting its high-speed rail terminus station in Bandar Malaysia, a 200ha site away from Kuala Lumpur's centre. It is also envisioned to be a mixed-used district with malls, condominiums, colleges, parks and offices served by a new (and re-routed) mass rapid transit line, even if plans are mostly still on the drawing board.

So the Singapore-Malaysia high-speed rail line will in fact join two new city centres. Hopefully, both will be equally developed when trains start rolling.

Singapore and Malaysia to boost travel links
Rail, road projects aimed at raising connectivity, easing border congestion
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

SINGAPORE and Malaysia will take several steps to improve connectivity between them and ease congestion at the border, said the prime ministers of both countries yesterday.

But this better and quicker connectivity will not come at the expense of security, they stressed.

"The more convenient it is for people to move back and forth, the more benefits there will be to both sides," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a press conference marking the end of a two-day leaders' retreat with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Businesses will get a boost and people-to-people links will be enhanced too, he added.

One way to increase connectivity is through the much-discussed high-speed rail project, which will send people zipping between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 90 minutes.

The project was a key part of talks between Mr Lee and Datuk Seri Najib during their retreat.

But the leaders also talked about new travel links that have been on the table for a while, such as a Rapid Transit System (RTS) and a Friendship Bridge.

The RTS - a train system connecting Johor Baru and Singapore that was announced in 2010 - is still in the works, they said at a press conference yesterday.

"We hope that we'll be able to move into Phase 2 looking at some of the technical and financial options," said Mr Najib.

Singapore has confirmed that its terminal will be located in Woodlands North near Republic Polytechnic, a stop on the Thomson-East Coast MRT line.

Once Malaysia decides on the location of its terminal, the countries can discuss the connection - whether bridge, tunnel or a combination of both, said Mr Lee.

Mr Najib added: "By the time we meet again, we would probably have resolved the RTS issue."

He was referring to the next leaders' retreat, which will be held in Malaysia next year.

The Friendship Bridge, proposed at last year's retreat as a symbol of friendship between Singapore and Malaysia, was also discussed in this year's talks.

It would be the third bridge crossing between Malaysia and Singapore, after the Causeway and the Second Link in Tuas.

This is something the two countries will study, as existing links reach full capacity, said Mr Lee. Another link - in whatever form - would be helpful, he added.

Even as the leaders planned to boost connectivity, they also had an eye on reducing congestion.

Both sides are working towards more train trips between Johor Baru and the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. The number of ferry services between Changi Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Belungkor in Johor may also rise, after both countries signed an agreement yesterday providing for more trips.

At the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, Singapore will automate all its 164 motorcycle counters by end-2016 and Malaysia has plans for similar counters.

This would speed up immigration clearance for motorcycles by up to 30 per cent, said both leaders in a joint statement yesterday.

On Singapore's end, it is also developing a BioScreen project to use biometric identifiers to speed up immigration clearance.

Despite moves to cut down on clearance times at checkpoints, security will not be compromised, both prime ministers said.

"This is a matter of efficiency, but also a matter of security and rigour, because we cannot afford to have people cross the border without having been properly checked, screened and made sure that they are safe and do not pose a security or an immigration risk," said Mr Lee.

Agreements signed on ferry services and disaster management
By Jasmine Osada, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

TWO agreements were signed between Singapore and Malaysia yesterday on the sidelines of the annual retreat between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

One will increase cooperation between the two countries' disaster management agencies, while the other will boost the number of ferry trips between Changi Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Belungkor in south-eastern Johor.

The first memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Malaysia's National Security Council will strengthen cooperation in training, techniques and information- sharing related to urban search and rescue operations and disaster management.

Cooperation between the two agencies goes back to 1994, with the SCDF playing a key role in the development of Smart, a special search and rescue force managed by the National Security Council.

Both agencies have also regularly participated in joint exercises. The SCDF has been taking part in its Malaysian counterpart's Joint Search and Rescue Exercise since 2011.

The signing between SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap Wee Teck and Malaysia's National Security Council secretary Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab was witnessed by Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

The second MOU signed was between Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and the Johor Port Authority.

The agreement is an update of the MOU first signed in 1993 to establish a regular ferry service between Changi Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Belungkor in south-eastern Johor, near the Desaru beach resort area.

Currently, ferry services run twice on weekdays and four times on weekends and public holidays, the MPA said.

The agreement will enable an increase in services but there were no immediate details given on the number.

The MOU was signed by MPA chief executive Andrew Tan and Johor Port Authority general manager Muhammad Razif Ahmad.

Close bilateral ties benefit both peoples: Najib
By Reme Ahmad And Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 6 May 2015

TIES between Malaysia and Singapore have never been better, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday, citing trade, investment and tourist figures as proof of the strength of their relationship.

He also said the various agreements that have arisen from the closeness between the two nations bring tangible economic and security benefits to all Malaysians and Singaporeans.

"This should be the priority of national leaders - the people's interests above all else," he said.

Datuk Seri Najib, who is in Singapore for the yearly leaders' retreat with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was speaking at the annual dinner of the Economic Society of Singapore.

Also at the dinner were his wife Rosmah Mansor as well as PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching.

Mr Najib said the shared history of the last 50 years shows clearly "our two nations are intertwined and, in particular, enjoy very strong people-to-people connectivity".

Indeed, current ties are "so warm... it would be no exaggeration to say they have never been better in our countries' histories", he added.

He said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had told him at lunch on Monday he had lived in Temerloh, Pahang, as his parents had moved there from Singapore when he was four years old, during the Japanese Occupation.

But Mr Najib noted that as close neighbours, the two countries face challenges in having to manage their differences.

Quoting a Malay proverb "sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit" (Even the tongue gets bitten sometimes), he said: "We are like tongue and teeth. In other words, we are close and need to work together to find positive solutions."

Pointing to the resolution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 after a 20-year deadlock, he said: "It was an example of how we chose to move forward in a spirit of friendship and mutual benefit and put a longstanding stumbling block behind us."

Today, Singapore and Malaysia are each other's second largest trading partner, after China, he noted. Bilateral trade between the two countries totalled RM209 billion (S$77 billion) last year.

"And Singapore remains one of the top investors in Malaysia, with the total value of approved projects last year standing at RM8.3 billion. FDI (foreign direct investment) stock from Singapore alone amounted to RM80.7 billion in 2013," Mr Najib said.

Singaporeans inevitably also top Malaysia's tourist arrival charts, with 13.9 million visits last year. This is an annual increase of 5.7 per cent.

"But we want even more of you to visit, and this year, Tourism Malaysia is hoping we can attract 14.5 million guests from Singapore," Mr Najib said.

As for investments in Malaysia, he said Iskandar Malaysia in southern Johor and Penang have been drawing the bulk of investments from Singapore.

But he welcomed a new trend: "Singaporeans are also beginning to invest in other economic corridors in Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak."

Mr Najib also congratulated Singapore on its Golden Jubilee and expressed delight at the clean bill of health received by PM Lee, who had surgery for prostate cancer in February.

He said: "I have a friend who is fighting fit and together we will be able to shape the destinies of our peoples to make our relationship ever more productive, mutually beneficial and forward looking."

Connectivity, few disruptions to infrastructure top analysts’ wish list
By Valerie Koh, TODAY, 7 May 2015

As the authorities mull over the location of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail terminus, some property analysts yesterday suggested that the planners dig deep and follow the example of countries such as Japan, where as many as four levels of tracks are built underground.

The analysts also chimed in with the considerations behind the siting of the terminal station. Topping their list are connectivity to the rest of the island and minimal disruption to the existing infrastructure.

Citing Japan’s underground train system, Mr Ku Swee Yong, chief executive of real estate firm Century 21, said: “The technology is there. It’s just a matter of expense.”

Mr Chris Koh, director of property firm Chris International, also felt that building underground is the way to go because it minimises disruption. “It’s too inconvenient to put it above. The construction will be a headache, and residents will complain about having tracks beside them because that might affect the value of their property,” said Mr Koh.

Ideally, the terminus should be in close proximity to Jurong East MRT Station, and connected seamlessly through underground passageways, said the analysts. The area around the MRT station is currently occupied by a bus interchange and three malls, with little empty land around.

“The nearer you put it to Jurong East MRT station, the better,” Mr Ku said. “You’ll have business travellers coming through, and to them, time is of the essence.

“There’s also going to be a massive flow of traffic in the area, and these people come with baggage,” he added. “They don’t want to walk too far.”

Analysts were split over whether a 1.02 million sqf plot of land between Jurong Town Hall Road and the Ayer Rajah Expressway, which was marked out in the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan 2014 as a reserve site meant for future development, was a possible location. The site is currently occupied by JTC Corporation’s iHUB, the Science Centre and its Omni-Theatre as well as the Jurong Country Club golf course.

The lease for the golf course still has 20 years left. While some felt that this location was near enough to the other transport nodes, others felt that the terminal station should be integrated with the existing Jurong East MRT station and bus interchange.

Mr Nicholas Mak, SLP executive director for research and consultancy, had also pointed out that the ground at this parcel of land would be too soft as it is near the lake, and that valuable waterfront plots would serve better as a residential or recreational zone.

Even if a large part of the terminal station is built underground, some analysts pointed out that massive overcrowding could result if it is integrated with the other transport nodes.

“The roads are going to be congested, and there’s little room to expand the roads around this area,” said Mr Alan Cheong, a senior director of real-estate research at Savills Singapore.

Should the Government decide to build the station on the reserve site, it would most likely have to acquire Jurong Country Club, said Mr Cheong.

Apart from the reserve land, much of Jurong East has been marked out as business, residential, park, port or airport sites under the 2014 Master Plan. Nevertheless, the URA reclassifies sites from time to time, subject to approval by the Minister for National Development.

A 12ha land parcel along Yuan Ching Road, previously occupied by the now-defunct Tang Dynasty City theme park, has also been mooted as a potential site for the terminal station. Since the theme park was demolished in 2008, JTC has not announced any plans for this area.

Financing high-speed rail a complex task: Analysts
Singapore, Malaysia will have to decide on funding model, keep eye on costs
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 7 May 2015

FINANCING the high-speed rail linking Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be a complex undertaking, say experts.

In addition to construction and design costs, the Republic and Malaysia will both have to decide what funding model to use.

They will also need to contend with the risk of delays due to design changes and cost overruns.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Singapore terminus for the rail link would be in Jurong East.

The project will require significant investment in land, stations, tracks, power and permits, among other things, said Associate Professor Willie Tan, head of the department of building at the National University of Singapore's School of Design and Environment.

Land acquisition is also a major issue and could be a potential cause of delay, he added.

The two governments have a range of financing options to consider, Prof Tan said. The project could be fully funded by both governments - the traditional approach where the government develops and owns the system.

The project could also be financed with a mix of public and private funds, with the governments buying part ownership of a project company. The private sector would retain some ownership and derive some income.

"For the private sector to provide funding for the project, it will have to be comfortable with the risk allocation between the government and the private sector, and the financial viability of the project," said Mr Oliver Redrup, associate director for transport at PwC Singapore.

In the case of the high-speed link connecting London and Paris, each country was responsible for choosing the financing approach for the infrastructure in its own jurisdiction, he noted.

The tunnel under the English Channel was jointly procured by the English and French governments using an 80-year concession agreement, so private financing could be utilised.

Still, large capital projects, regardless of location, are often delivered over budget and late, Mr Redrup said. "At the outset... there must be clear mechanisms for dealing with design changes, delays and cost overruns."

Controls are also needed during the construction, he added.

Fares would need to be worked out as the purchasing power of Malaysians would differ substantially from that of Singaporeans, said Mr Fang Li Wei, infrastructure and capital projects leader at Deloitte South-east Asia.

"The fares would need to be fair to both sides so as to ensure the required ridership, to break even operationally and to pay for the loans," he said.

'Politics won't derail rail deal'
But KL analysts see delays if there is a change of govt
By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 8 May 2015

THE high-speed rail link between Malaysia and Singapore is likely to proceed despite the political power play in Malaysia, say analysts here.

On Tuesday, the two prime ministers said the original target date of 2020 would be pushed back due to the project's complexity. A new date will be announced after both sides agree on all major issues of the project by the end of this year.

Prime Minister Najib Razak must win the next two general elections if he is to personally see through the project.

But recent political manoeuvring within the ruling Umno party as well as former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's continued attacks against Datuk Seri Najib have left some party insiders wondering if he can hold on to power beyond this year.

Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of policy think-tank Ideas, said the high-speed rail project goes beyond political partisanship but he warned that there could be further delays in the future.

"If the deal is signed now or very soon, then whoever takes over will have an obligation to respect the agreement," he said.

"But the rail network is for the benefit of Malaysia in the long term and the benefits will remain regardless of who is in power. So I doubt that any change at the top, if there is one, will have too negative an impact."

Mr Lim Teck Ghee, director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives, was also dismissive of rumours of any change of leadership. He too stressed that any change in leadership would not affect the project.

"If a new leader does emerge, he will want to assert his authority; and all mega projects associated with the previous prime minister will undergo scrutiny. By then perhaps the high-speed project may have gone too far ahead to be abandoned."

Mr Lim warned of possible cost increases because "a great majority" of mega projects in the country have had cost overruns.

Malaysia and Singapore agreed in 2013 to build a high-speed rail link that will slash travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes, a project their leaders dubbed a "game changer". The journey between the two cities currently takes, on average, eight hours by train, five hours by bus, four hours by car or 40 minutes by air.

The line, which is expected to have eight stops, will start from Bandar Malaysia, 3km from Kuala Lumpur's financial district, and end in Jurong East.

The Business Times reported last month that the massive project may miss its 2020 deadline by two years and end up costing as much as $14.9 billion.

Mega projects in Malaysia have a history of huge cost overruns. One of these was the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ). Its original cost of nearly RM2 billion soared to RM4.6 billion by the time it was completed in 2006. In 2009, an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the total cost of PKFZ, including interest from debt repayments, could reach RM12.5 billion.

Another was low-cost air terminal KLIA2, which opened a year ago after a three-year delay. Construction costs ballooned from the initial RM1.7 billion to RM4 billion (S$1.5 billion).

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng reiterated the importance of the high-speed rail link in spurring and creating business opportunities in cities and towns along its route.

"The benefit the rail link can bring would be a lot more than what Malaysians can imagine...

"The project will stimulate economic activity in second-tier cities that have not been enjoying any tremendous growth in the last two decades. The connectivity is going to make it possible for people to create businesses in places like Ipoh and elsewhere."

High-speed rail: A game-changer but how much will tickets cost?

The planned high-speed rail from Jurong East in Singapore to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is expected to shorten travel time to as little as 90 minutes. There will be seven stops in Malaysia and the 340km line is estimated to cost RM40 billion (S$14.8 billion) to build. The ambitious project is likely to impact the way Singaporeans and Malaysians live, play and do business. Consumer correspondent Jessica Lim and reporter Jasmine Osada speak to experts for some ideas.
The Straits Times, 11 May 2015

Who will benefit?

FIGURES from the Singapore Tourism Board show that about 1.2 million Malaysian residents visited Singapore last year - excluding Malaysian citizens arriving by land.

Traffic between both countries through the Causeway and Second Link is estimated at 400,000 crossings both ways daily.

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore figures show that an average of 7,500 people left Singapore for Malaysia daily by air last year, of which, say experts, about 6,000 were headed to Kuala Lumpur.

National University of Singapore transport expert Lee Der Horng said he expects the high-speed rail (HSR) to run every 15 minutes - an "aggressive prediction" in his books - and have 12 carriages, each with a maximum capacity of 80 people, which is typical for HSR trains.

This will mean an extra 100,000 commuters will be able to travel in both directions daily, he added.

The HSR is expected to help ease the current labour crunch in Singapore. The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises said the project could attract more workers from Malaysia to come and work in Singapore, commuting on a daily basis.

But experts said such rail systems are not designed for daily commuting due to their pricing and station locations.

SIM University urban transport management expert Park Byung Joon said the HSR does not take people right up to the doorstep of their destination. "You would have to take another form of transportation to the destination. This makes the daily commute cumbersome," he said.

But business travellers who come to Singapore or go up to KL for short-term projects, or make weekly and monthly trips, are likely to be major users.

The HSR will also facilitate travel for attending meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions events in both countries, said Nanyang Technological University transport economist Walter Theseira.

"Companies now book rooms for delegates for a night. With the HSR, they can return on the same day. This will significantly reduce the cost of doing business and spur partnerships between both countries," said Assistant Professor Theseira.

The HSR's regular schedules, travel time and cost competitiveness against airlines, and easier access to the city centre compared with airports, are likely to make it attractive to business travellers, he said.

For leisure, the HSR is expected to increase the number of day trips and short stays in both countries. "It provides an avenue for twin-city tour packages," said Ngee Ann Polytechnic tourism lecturer Michael Chiam.

How much would tickets cost?

WHEN it comes to the pricing of HSR tickets, experts said they expect prices to be pegged to those charged by budget airlines.

"I have great difficulty believing that the price of a ticket will be at a rate that regular workers can afford for daily commute," said Prof Theseira.

For instance, the price of a standard full-fare HSR ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung - a distance of about 345km - is NT$1,630 (S$70).

Industry players estimate that commuters may pay between $80 and $90 a trip - although the pricing system may be similar to that of airlines, where fares change daily depending on demand.

Currently, people travelling from Singapore to KL pay between $25 and $50 for a five-hour bus ride, about $80 for a 45-minute budget flight, and about $250 for a full-service flight.

Analysts said they expect budget airlines to be hardest hit, given the fact that they now have a 60 per cent share of the Singapore-KL market.

In South Korea, for instance, domestic airline seating capacity had to be reduced by over 30 per cent after the HSR opened in 2004, according to research organisation Capa Centre for Aviation.

What about security?

HSR systems in Europe, such as the Eurostar that connects major cities like London and Paris, have loose border controls.

It would be different for the Singapore-Malaysia HSR, said Dr Wu Shang-su, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

Although the people of all Asean member states do not need vias to cross borders, immigration checks will still be in place to ensure safety.

Said Security Association (Singapore) president T. Mogan: "We do not have borders on large, open land, and all our transport systems are contained and controlled. I don't think we need to be unduly worried."

Dr Wu said: "As long as the Singapore authorities maintain a similar level of border control as they do at other checkpoints, the HSR is unlikely to pose considerable danger for Singapore."


Singapore to KL by bus: $25 to $50 (five hours)

Budget flight: About $80 (45 minutes)

Full-service flight: $250

Experts' estimated cost of HSR ticket: $80 to $90 (90 minutes)

Too early to discuss high-speed rail fares
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 12 May 2015

IT IS too early to discuss fares for the planned high-speed rail between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said yesterday.

But Singapore has informed Malaysia it would be better for the 90-minute non-stop service between KL and Singapore, and the transit service - which stops at stations along the way - to be managed separately.

He was responding to Mr de Souza, who asked for more details on the project. The Government said yesterday at a separate event that the rail line's Singapore terminus will be at the current site of the Jurong Country Club.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced earlier that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) terminus in...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Monday, May 11, 2015

* End high-speed rail in JB? KL agency says it was misquoted
Reports had said Malaysia's transport agency preferred JB over Jurong East
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2015

THE Malaysian transport agency said it was misquoted in media reports that it wanted the proposed high-speed railway (HSR) to end in Johor Baru rather than in Jurong East in Singapore.

Instead, it prefers to have the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR link end in Singapore's central business district, said Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive Mohamad Nur Ismal Kamal in a statement released late last night.

Earlier yesterday, Singapore's Transport Ministry (MOT) had issued a strongly worded statement to say that it was surprised the SPAD had stated in media reports that it wanted the HSR to end in Johor rather than in Singapore.

Malaysia's transport agency said it was misquoted on wanting the high-speed rail to end in Johor, rather than in Jurong...
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, June 19, 2015

Mr Mohamad Nur was quoted as saying in a report in The Edge Malaysia on Monday that "we would prefer to terminate the line at the existing CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) complex".

"However, Singapore wants it to terminate in Jurong East and understandably so."

The MOT said that terminating the HSR in Johor would undermine the objectives of the link.

"Our understanding is that Malaysia views the commercial premise of the KL-Singapore HSR project, and with which we agree, as being based on a direct connection between the two city centres.

"Terminating the HSR in Johor Baru will not achieve this objective," it said.

MOT reiterated that last year, Malaysia had chosen its terminus to be in Bandar Malaysia.

But late last night, the SPAD chief said that he was "regrettably misquoted" in the Edge report.

"We would have preferred to terminate the line at the CBD area. This will be closer to Orchard Road than Jurong East. However, this is a joint project for the benefit of both countries and, hence, there has to be give and take," he said.

"So, just as we want Singapore to consider our economic and social considerations, we have to weigh Singapore's economic and commercial considerations as well to come to an agreement."

Last month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak announced that Singapore's terminus would be in Jurong East after their annual retreat.

MOT said both countries are also in discussions over the HSR's commercial and operating models.

Singapore has proposed that the domestic transit HSR service, which will stop at six stations in between Singapore and KL, be operated separately from the express non-stop HSR services between KL and Singapore, MOT said.

This will give Malaysia autonomy over the domestic transit services to serve its domestic needs, it added.

New Developments and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Terminus Set for Jurong East

Singapore high-speed rail terminus will be at current Jurong Country Club site

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR)

Singapore-KL High Speed Rail targeted to start running around 2026; Memorandum of Understanding signed on 19 July 2016

KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Agreement signed; service targeted to start by Dec 31, 2026

Raffles Country Club to make way for KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail

Singapore to Johor Baru MRT service to start by end-2024

Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link to open by 2024

Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail scrapped, says Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad

KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail postponed to May 2020; Malaysia to pay Singapore RM45 million for suspending project

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