Thursday, 15 December 2016

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

Line will be up by end-2026; PM Lee hails pact as a significant milestone in bilateral ties
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Singapore and Malaysia yesterday signed a historic agreement to construct a high-speed rail line that is slated to start by Dec 31, 2026.

The line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be 350km long and have eight stations. It will go across the Strait of Johor via a 25m- high bridge near the Second Link.

The landmark deal will transform the way both countries interact and do business, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart Najib Razak said yesterday at a media press conference after their annual Leaders' Retreat.

They called it a "marquee project" in a joint statement, saying it will bring their countries even closer together, improve connectivity, deepen people-to-people ties and catalyse further economic cooperation.

PM Lee hailed the agreement as a significant milestone in the relationship between the two countries. "It gives both sides a big stake in keeping relations stable and warm."

The ambitious rail link conceived in 2013 will cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes, compared with more than four hours by car.

The legally binding deal was signed by Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, and Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

It formalises technical, safety and security requirements as well as regulatory and commercial frameworks, among other things.

The signing also marks the shift from a planning phase to that of implementation, and comes after both sides inked a memorandum of understanding for the project in July.

Mr Lee said there is "strong political will on both sides" to ensure the project is done right and is a success. He quipped: "I look forward to taking my first train ride up to Putrajaya in 10 years' time."

While the 10-year timeframe is a "relatively short period of time" given the size and complexity of the project, Datuk Seri Najib said he is committed to meeting the deadline.

"We have to work very closely together and be very focused, and we must overcome all the challenges as we move ahead," he said.

Both countries will award a joint tender for a development partner early next year, to provide operational and technical advice as well as procurement advice on high- speed railway systems.

Mr Najib said an international tender will be called in the fourth quarter of next year for an assets company to design, build, finance and maintain rail assets and trains for the line.

A bilateral committee, led by senior government officials from both sides, will oversee the arrangements set out in the agreement.

Yesterday, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen relations, amid a challenging global security and economic environment.

They agreed on technical details for the Rapid Transit System link, which will connect the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line (TEL) to Johor Baru via another high bridge near the Causeway. The link will use the same rail systems and trains as TEL.

Both sides will also hold a cultural showcase every three years alongside future retreats, starting in 2018.

"This will further our cultural cooperation, which is very important because our relationship must be more than just economic and transactional," said Mr Lee. "Ultimately, it is about friendship, friendship between the people, friendship and trust between the leaders. And arts and culture play an important role."

Other issues they discussed include trade, tourism, water and transboundary haze pollution.

On water, the leaders agreed on the importance of taking the necessary measures to ensure reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River as stipulated in the 1962 Water Agreement.

Mr Lee and Singapore officials later had dinner - which included durian - with the Malaysian delegation at Seri Perdana, the Malaysian Prime Minister's official residence.

In a Facebook post yesterday evening, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "Our relationship with Malaysia is strong and flourishing. We are bound by history, kinship, culture and strong people-to-people ties."

Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat

Competitive bids expected for Singapore-KL high-speed rail project: PM
Industry players have shown much interest in Singapore-KL line, and the best one will be chosen
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Competitive bids are expected when tenders are called for the high-speed rail systems between Singapore and Malaysia, and the best one will be chosen, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference after the annual Leaders' Retreat, Mr Lee said the future high-speed rail line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur has attracted plenty of interest from industry players.

In an interview with Bernama last month, Mr Lee said the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese - who have high-speed rail systems - have been lobbying hard for the contract, and deciding which one is best would be a very difficult decision.

Asked yesterday if the contract could be awarded to a consortium, he said it was "premature to speculate on the permutations".

He added: "If they get together, I think that is for the good, but I have not seen it happen very frequently - the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese getting together."

Singapore and Malaysia signed a legally binding pact for a 350km high-speed rail line yesterday.

It formalises, among other things, financing, commercial and procurement frameworks for the project.

In response to queries on how much the line is expected to cost, a Singapore Transport Ministry spokesman said it is "not appropriate" to announce cost estimates now as they are subject to further engineering studies, and could influence the bids submitted for tenders.

A target date has been set for the non-stop service between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur: Dec 31, 2026.

Asked how the two governments would ensure that the project remains on track in the current global economic slowdown, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said it is largely viable. Also, the governments would be able to get long-term financing for it.

On whether the line would be extended farther north beyond Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Najib said doing so would add to its complexity and magnitude. It should be confined to between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, he added.

Most of the line - 335km of it - will be in Malaysia, with the remaining 15km in Singapore.

Three services will ply along the dual-track line, which will be designed for a top speed of 350kmh.

There will be an express service between the two terminal stations - Jurong East in Singapore and the upcoming Bandar Malaysia development in Kuala Lumpur; a shorter shuttle service will also connect Singapore and Iskandar Puteri in Johor. Both countries will call a joint tender for an international operator to run the non-stop and shuttle services.

Malaysia will also call a tender for an operator to run a separate domestic service from Kuala Lumpur to Iskandar Puteri that will make stops at five other stations along the way: Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar and Batu Pahat.

In scheduling the train services, the international operator will have priority over the domestic operator.

Mr Lee said Singapore will continue to work closely with Malaysia in a joint ministerial committee for the Iskandar region.

He noted that joint venture projects between Temasek Holdings and Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional in Iskandar Malaysia are progressing well, citing the Afiniti Medini and Avira Medini developments. The projects by Khazanah-Temasek joint venture M+S in Singapore are also progressing well, he added.

Iskandar Puteri is one of three locations where Customs, immigration and quarantine facilities of both countries will be located.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are the other two.

This means international-bound travellers will need to clear Customs and immigration only once, when departing the respective countries.

With many more people expected to commute between the two sides when the line is completed, security has been raised as a concern.

Asked about it, Mr Lee said security was a major issue discussed and resolved in planning for the line.

There has to be a balance between ensuring secure borders and making it convenient for passengers to clear immigration, he said.

"We have thought long and hard about this, we need this both for the HSR (high-speed rail) as well as for the RTS (Rapid Transit System link), and we will make it work."

Singapore-KL high-speed rail project will open new landscape in ties: Najib
He hails high-speed rail pact as momentous deal that will change the way Malaysia and Singapore conduct business
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Malaysia has hailed the high-speed rail (HSR) agreement with Singapore as a "game changer" not just for its own economy, but also for relations between the two neighbours.

Calling the deal signed yesterday "momentous", Prime Minister Najib Razak said it would change "the way we conduct business, the way we move people and the lifestyle between our two countries".

"This project will open a new landscape in terms of our bilateral relations," he told a joint press conference with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.

On Sunday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who heads Malaysia's team on the 350km project, said the government was committed to pursuing its completion in 2026.

He added that the HSR was projected to contribute RM100 billion (S$32 billion) to Malaysia's gross domestic product (GDP) through construction, operations, ancillary services and indirect multiplier benefits such as tourism and appreciation of property.

"Through holistic planning, the wider economic benefits that could be leveraged from the HSR project are conservatively estimated at an additional RM21 billion of GDP in the year 2060, with 111,000 jobs created based on a World Bank study," Datuk Abdul Rahman, who is also the Economic Planning Minister, said in a statement.

Datuk Seri Najib said "10 years is a relatively short period" considering the project's size and complexity, and urged both governments to work closely with each other to meet the deadline and ensure the budget is not exceeded.

Although no fixed cost has been officially set, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said in July that he expected the figure to reach about RM50 billion.

Though some analysts were concerned about the short-term impact on government finances and the balance of trade due to imported assets, they agreed with the Najib administration that the HSR would boost the economy in the long run.

"In addition to the services trade (especially tourism), the HSR could also enhance bilateral investment flows. The improved connectivity could also attract more foreign investors... More labour mobility could also provide some reprieve to Singapore's very tight labour markets and hence ease some cost," Nomura's South-east Asia economist Euben Paracuelles told The Straits Times.

However, Mr Najib told reporters "we do not envisage problems in getting long-term financing" as "we believe that this HSR project is commercially viable".

While the two governments will finance the civil infrastructure and operate the stations, they are expected to appoint a privately financed company to deliver the trains and track system, and which will then lease them to private operators.

"I know people are excited about it. The towns along the way will definitely see a marked improvement in terms of economic activities," Mr Najib said.

Among the businesses looking forward to the rail link is Majupadu Development, a Kluang-based real estate outfit that sees the nearby Batu Pahat station as a boon for the town's property valuations.

"We plan to attract future businesses for Kluang, including new investments as a result of the HSR. This could very well be the new spine of our community that will facilitate urban developments for generations to come," Majupadu executive director Tey Fui Kien told The Straits Times.

Singapore-KL high-speed rail: Bridge over Johor Strait more cost-effective option, say experts
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Building a bridge across the Strait of Johor to link the high-speed rail (HSR) between Singapore and Malaysia is cost effective compared with tunnelling undersea, said industry experts.

Tunnelling can cost 21/2 to 10 times more, they estimated, and would add to the engineering complexity of the joint project, slated to start operations in 10 years.

Yesterday, both countries signed a landmark deal on the 350km line, which will let commuters zip between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 90 minutes. Besides formally agreeing on the HSR's financial and operating model, both sides decided that it will run on a bridge over the Johor Strait, with a height clearance of 25m above the water level.

The bridge was hailed by observers, who noted that earlier Malaysian reports quoted the Johor state government as saying it hoped an undersea tunnel would be built.

An example of a HSR system that goes undersea is the Eurostar, which runs through a tunnel under the English Channel linking Britain and France.

Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of the KTC construction group, said: "Tunnelling underground will be at least 21/2 times more expensive than building an above-ground structure. It makes more economic sense to build above ground."

Mr Philippe Lorand, project director for Asia at French rail group SNCF, estimated that the cost of an undersea rail tunnel could be up to 10 times that of a bridge.

SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon noted that building bridges above water can place a restriction on vessel traffic.

"If the bridge is too low, larger ships cannot pass through," he said. But this should not be an issue, Dr Park added, as the bridge linking the HSR is about the same height as the Second Link.

The agreement signed yesterday also set out a target start date - for the express non-stop services between the Jurong terminus in Singapore and the Bandar Malaysia terminal in Kuala Lumpur. They are to start by Dec 31, 2026.

Dr Park said this was feasible, as HSR systems built more than a decade ago, like the Korea Train eXpress between Seoul and Busan, took about 10 years to finish.

But he noted that HSR systems require a straight alignment, which means many bridges and tunnels will have to be constructed. The bulk of the construction challenges will be in Malaysia, where 335km of the 350km line will be sited.

Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng foresees the HSR boosting business linkages and increasing competitiveness.

"Some firms may have their office in Singapore and, with the HSR, they can go to Kuala Lumpur for a lunch meeting and come back to Singapore within a day," he said.

Mr Teo suggested that the business communities from both sides "form a business council to discuss how we can reap the benefits from the HSR connection".

Political observer Mustafa Izzuddin of the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute said the new bridge over the Johor Strait, in addition to the Causeway and Second Link, is symbolic of deepening bilateral ties.

With the HSR, more of the bilateral differences will become just water under the bridge, "with the emphasis now being towards perfecting a cooperative and responsible Malaysia-Singapore partnership, premised on mutual trust, political will and smart strategic thinking", he added.

Additional reporting by Marissa Lee

Singapore-JB MRT to be linked by high bridge; deal by 2017
Link connecting Johor, Woodlands will join upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor In Putrajaya, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Singapore and Malaysia hope to sign an agreement for a cross-border MRT system, linked by a high bridge between Johor and Woodlands, by the end of 2017.

The Rapid Transit System link will connect Johor's Bukit Chagar terminus station to the Singapore terminus in Woodlands North, where it will join the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL).

Announcing this at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his counterpart, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said a high bridge was the "best solution".

"This was a major point: How are we going to cross the Strait of Johor - high bridge, low bridge, tunnel?" PM Lee said. "After extensive discussions, we have agreed that a high bridge is the best solution and that clears the way for us to work towards a bilateral agreement, which I hope we can sign by the end of next year."

Both leaders said in a joint statement that the link will improve connectivity and reduce congestion at border crossings when completed.

It will be operated by a corporate entity, which will set fares based on the market. Fares will not be regulated by the governments.

PM Lee and Mr Najib endorsed the technical details for the link at their annual Leaders' Retreat here.

The Rapid Transit System link was first announced by Singapore and Malaysia in May 2010, and was initially targeted to be ready by 2018. A new completion date and the detailed alignment for the link have not been finalised yet.

The second phase of a joint engineering study for the project began in April, and is still ongoing. A Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said that both sides are meeting frequently to finalise the detailed design by next year.

Separately, the LTA awarded a contract to a consortium comprising AECOM, MVA and KPMG to conduct a ridership and commercial study in June.

The ridership study is likely to be completed this year, and its findings will be used in the commercial study expected to be concluded by next year, said the LTA spokesman.

The cross-border service will use the same rail systems and rolling stock as the TEL to reap economies of scale, the joint statement by both prime ministers said.

US conglomerate GE has been appointed to supply the signalling system and platform screen doors for the TEL.

Singapore Technologies Electronics will provide the communication systems for the line, including video surveillance and travel information systems.

The LTA has bought 91 four-car trains for the TEL, awarding a contract to a consortium formed by Japanese firm Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Chinese company CSR Qingdao Sifang Co.

The 31-station TEL, which runs from Woodlands to Sungei Bedok in the east, will open in phases from 2019 to 2024.

Yesterday, both leaders also reiterated their commitment to promote and explore more ways to enhance connectivity between Singapore and Malaysia.

They noted that daily train services from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to Johor Baru have gone up to 24 today, compared with 14 during last year's retreat.

In addition, they took note of discussions to study new ferry routes between Singapore and Johor, and Malaysia's request to extend an agreement to build and operate a ferry terminal and run a ferry service between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia has also proposed to refurbish the facilities at Changi Ferry Terminal, which has services to Tanjung Belungkor, from where passengers can travel on to Desaru.

Singapore-KL high-speed rail deadline ‘ambitious but achievable’
Experts say finalising the line's alignment in Malaysia will be the biggest challenge
By Danson Cheong and Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 15 Dec 2016

The high-speed rail (HSR) line between Singapore and Malaysia has an ambitious 10-year deadline to get the system up and running by Dec 31, 2026. But experts told The Straits Times yesterday it was achievable as long as construction starts by 2021, at the latest.

What is tougher, they said, is drafting the tender documents and contracts before 2021. And even more challenging is finalising the alignment of the 350km route, much of which is in Malaysia, they added.

Professor Lee Der Horng, a transport researcher at the National University of Singapore, said drafting the tender documents for a rail system like the HSR would be time- consuming as the project is new to both governments.

"Once the tender is awarded, the actual system construction can be done very quickly," he said.

He foresees the construction taking around three years. Another one to two years would be spent on testing the line and ironing out any bugs and kinks, he said.

The HSR agreement, signed by both governments in Putrajaya on Tuesday, would cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes, compared with four hours by car. It has been called a "marquee project" by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who witnessed the signing with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak.

The ball will start rolling early next year when both countries award a tender jointly for a development partner to give operational, technical and procurement advice.

Another tender will be called in the fourth quarter of next year for a company to design, build, finance and maintain rail assets and trains.

Prof Lee, explaining why the construction would be relatively faster, said the HSR was unlike similar systems in Japan and Taiwan, where they had to be engineered to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes or typhoons.

So, in terms of engineering complexity, "the HSR will be relatively simple", he said. In turn, the engineering design and construction will be simpler as well, he added.

Finalising the line's alignment in Malaysia will be the biggest challenge, the experts said.

SIM University economist Walter Theseira noted the alignment in Malaysia has not been finalised yet.

"We don't know much about any potential risks, for example, from environmental concerns, land acquisitions and so on," he said.

If the issues create strong opposition to the project in Malaysia, it could delay the HSR, he added.

SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon said if minor construction works do not begin in two years, it could be a sign the "planning process is not going too smoothly". But if plans and designs for the lines are finalised quickly, the HSR could be built in as little as two years. "The 10-year schedule is ambitious but achievable," he said.

About 335km of the HSR line will be in Malaysia, with the remaining 15km in Singapore.

The line will be linked across the Johor Strait by a 25m-high bridge near the Second Link.

Another bridge near the Causeway will be built for a separate Rapid Transit System (RTS), which will connect the Thomson-East Coast MRT line (TEL) to Johor Baru.

Political observers said the HSR and RTS projects reflect the extent to which Singapore-Malaysia ties have overcome their rocky past.

"The Najib Razak-Lee Hsien Loong period can be described as the golden years of bilateral relations so far," said ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute research fellow Norshahril Saat.

The 1990 Points of Agreement to move Malayan Railway's station from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands, for example, was held up for 20 years until a landmark swop deal between Mr Lee and Datuk Seri Najib broke the impasse in 2010.

Dr Norshahril said: "Singapore- Malaysia relations today are not about rivalry, enmity and hostility, but more on cooperation and mutual benefit."

Added Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan, a former Nominated MP: "Both governments have to ensure the political will on both sides is durable so that even with leadership changes, the tight deadline will be met."

Additional reporting by Adrian Lim

Singapore, Malaysia to boost links in environment, tourism and more
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak issued a joint statement after the annual Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat in Putrajaya yesterday.

Apart from witnessing the signing of the agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail and discussing the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System link, they took stock of how ties have been strengthened in various areas.

They also discussed ways to further boost ties in the years to come.

These are some key highlights.


Both leaders noted that Singapore and Malaysia are each other's second-largest trading partners.

They also pointed to four areas of collaboration that a working group on industrial cooperation had discussed on Oct 27. These are: advanced materials engineering, electronics, food and creative services.

They reiterated a commitment to promote and explore further links between their countries.

They commended efforts to reduce congestion at the Causeway and Second Link, including rolling out automated immigration clearance facilities for motorcycles, such as Malaysia's M-Bike programme and Singapore's Biometric Identification of Motorbikers System (Bikes II).

The Customs agencies of both countries have made progress towards reaching an agreement on training collaboration.


Both leaders encouraged discussion on possible partnerships to promote technical and vocational education and training.

They look forward to a "training of trainers" scheme next year, which will be held by ITE Education Services with seven Johor- based institutes. The scheme will be supported by Temasek Foundation International.

TOURISM The two leaders noted that good progress has been made in the area of tourism, adding that they look forward to promoting Singapore's Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and Johor's Pulau Kukup as a joint eco-tourism initiative.

It will start when upgrading works at Pulau Kukup are completed this year.

Both sides will also promote Asean as a travel destination when the regional grouping turns 50 next year.


Both leaders noted that progress has been made in addressing the "recurring problem" of transboundary haze.

They reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which has been ratified by all 10 Asean member states. The pact will help achieve the vision of a haze-free Asean by 2020.


The two leaders, in the light of growing security challenges and threats, made a commitment to strengthen defence cooperation through regular exchanges, training courses and military exercises between their armed forces.

They said it was important to remain committed to multilateral initiatives, which include the Malacca Strait Patrol and Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting.

They also welcomed cooperation between their countries' civil service.

Cooperation on urban search and rescue has increased between the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team.

Eleven SCDF personnel also took part in an exercise in August, organised by Malaysia's Civil Defence Department and Civil Defence Training Academy.


Both sides expressed a desire to organise a joint cultural showcase regularly, after the success of the Titian Budaya Cultural Festival in Kuala Lumpur last year. The music, theatre, film and art extravaganza marked 50 years of friendship between Singapore and Malaysia.

The proposal is for a Malaysia-Singapore cultural showcase to be held every three years, with the inaugural event anticipated to be held with the Leaders' Retreat in 2018.

The next retreat will be held in Singapore next year.

Leaders agree to ensure adequate water from Johor River
The Straits Times, 14 Dec 2016

PUTRAJAYA • Singapore and Malaysia have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supply from the Johor River as spelt out in the 1962 Water Agreement, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Both sides agreed to take the necessary measures to make this happen, PM Lee added at a press conference with Mr Najib.

Mr Najib said the Johor River Barrage project - to reduce salinity and increase the river's yield - will be fully operational by next March.

And while there were "some challenges", including the effects of climate change, that affected water supply, he said: "We have agreed to work closely together to make sure Singapore gets its share of water under the Water Agreement. We believe that by working together, we will find an acceptable solution."

Both sides are working together on projects like the barrage. The Johor River supplies a significant part of Singapore's daily water needs.

PM Lee said water is an important issue for both countries.

"We are happy that we have agreed on the importance of ensuring reliable and adequate water supplies from the Johor River as provided for in the 1962 Water Agreement and to take necessary measures in order to make this happen," he said.

"I am very happy that the Johor River Barrage is now in its final stages of completion. It is already making a difference and helping to improve the yield of the river, and our agencies are working closely together."

Both leaders were also pleased with the state of bilateral ties and would work to strengthen them.

Johor has seen water levels drop since early last year owing to drought and rapid development.

This year, water levels in the Linggiu Reservoir fell to new lows. Water stock there is at about 26 per cent now. Singapore water agency PUB is entitled to draw 250 million gallons of raw water daily from the Johor River under the 1962 agreement with Malaysia, which expires in 2061. In return, Singapore is obliged to sell five million gallons of treated water to Johor each day. But PUB this year provided Johor with up to 16 million gallons of water a day.

In a joint statement yesterday, both leaders expressed appreciation to the water authorities for their ongoing cooperation and urged them to continue this excellent working relationship.

PM Lee singled out PUB, Johor water agency Bakaj, and Malaysia's Ministry of Energy, Green Technologies and Water for taking "appropriate and timely measures to increase the yield of the Johor River".

Mr Najib also raised the issue of land reclamation works in the Strait of Johor and said Malaysia will continue to share data with Singapore.

"Singapore has received a lot of EIA (environmental impact assessment) reports from us, EIA data," he said, adding that it wanted more information on some projects.

Malaysia will use the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Committee on the Environment as a platform to share the data, Mr Najib said.

"Malaysia is committed to the UNCLOS agreement, to make sure we will adhere to the requirements under UNCLOS," he added, using the acronym for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Under UNCLOS, countries doing reclamation work that could have transboundary impact have to undertake an EIA and share the reports with affected countries, prior to the start of such works.

High-speed rail project on track
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 19 Dec 2016

Last week, Singapore and Malaysia inked a historic agreement to build a high-speed rail line that aims to get trains running between Jurong East and Kuala Lumpur by Dec 31, 2026.

By formalising the line's technical and security details as well as its regulatory, financing and procurement frameworks, among other things, the agreement paves the way for both sides to move from the planning phase to implementation.

The legally binding deal also signals a clear commitment from both governments to ensure the mega project is executed smoothly and is successful.

This is critical, for the multibillion-dollar project is highly complex and will span several terms of government on both sides.

Given that an MRT line here typically takes at least 10 years to plan and build, the window to complete the high-speed rail line is a fairly narrow one.

The next few years are crucial, as contracts have to be drafted and tendered out, while the detailed alignment of the 350km line has to be finalised. Any delays will impact the construction timeline, and overall completion.

But if done right, the line - billed as a "game changer" - promises tremendous upsides for both countries. It will transform the way people travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by land for business or leisure, reducing a drive that lasts more than four hours to a 90-minute express train ride.

Coupled with the cross-border MRT link between Singapore and Johor Baru, the high-speed rail will ease traffic congestion at both countries' borders.

The line will also bring about significant economic benefits. Businesses can take advantage of the improved accessibility, while areas around the high-speed rail stations will be more attractive to developers. Land values are likely to go up as a result.

The deal is also indicative of the increasingly warm ties between the two countries, and, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week: "It gives both sides a big stake in keeping relations stable and warm."

* LTA appoints US engineering firm AECOM to study Singapore end of high-speed rail

HSR study: $24.6m contract awarded to AECOM
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 9 Feb 2017

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded AECOM Singapore a $24.6 million contract to conduct an advanced engineering study for the Singapore stretch of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).

The contract was awarded last month, and AECOM will have two years to complete it.

The firm will provide architectural, civil, electrical, mechanical and other design services required for the HSR's Jurong East terminus, tunnels and the bridge across the Strait of Johor, LTA said in a statement yesterday.

LTA said AECOM was selected "through a highly competitive tender process", noting that it brings "extensive experience in HSR projects internationally, including in the planning and design of the Beijing South HSR Station in China, the High Speed 2 railway in the United Kingdom and the West Kowloon Terminus for the Express Rail Link in Hong Kong".

AECOM has an extensive track record in Singapore as well, having worked with LTA to design the Circle Line, Downtown Line, Thomson-East Coast Line and the Tuas West Extension.

The firm, which has a Los Angeles headquarters and employs about 87,000 people in 150 countries, is also carrying out an engineering consultancy study for the Rapid Transit System (RTS) link between Singapore and Johor Baru.

The RTS link, an extension of the Thomson-East Coast Line, was slated for completion next year when first announced, but this has been pushed back to a date yet to be decided.

There has been little progress reported on the 4km to 5km extension, with Singapore saying it is waiting for Johor to decide on the location of its terminal station.

The 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR is slated to be completed by end-2026. It will allow travel between the two cities in 90 minutes, a fraction of the time taken by car, and comparable to the time taken for air travel now.

AECOM will work with various other specialists like Architects 61, Applied Wayfinding and CPG Consultants on the HSR project.

** URA appoints team led by Dutch architecture firm to develop master plan for Jurong Lake District

Vision of greenery and water in Singapore's 2nd CBD
KCAP team wins bid as consultant to develop detailed masterplan for Jurong Lake District
By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 9 Feb 2017

A Dutch-led team will help create the new Jurong Lake District, beating four others with its vision for Singapore's second Central Business District.

KCAP Architects&Planner's proposal consists of four large interconnected parks; buildings 30 to 40 storeys high, each with a rooftop garden; and a canal that borders the district centre.

The team led by KCAP includes SAA Architects, Arup, S333 and Lekker.

It now moves to stage three of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Request for Proposal exercise as the consultant to develop a detailed masterplan for the district.

This will be Rotterdam-based KCAP's first project with URA.

Ms Yvonne Lim, URA's group director for physical planning, emphasised that the vision from KCAP's team for the district was aspirational, and many details had yet to be finalised.

However, she said their proposal won because "they had given very sensitive focus on 'green' and 'blue', with ideas to weave new waterways and greenery from the gardens into the entire district, thus giving it a very distinctive identity".

The 360ha site will comprise three precincts: Jurong Gateway, Lakeside and Lakeside Gateway.

It will function as Singapore's second Central Business District, and will be the location of the terminus of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail.

Ms Lim added that URA liked the KCAP team's focus on walkable streets and interactive public spaces for social activities.

Over the next few months, KCAP's team will work with government agencies to draw up detailed proposals for the district.

The public will have the chance to give their feedback on these proposals in the middle of the year, when they will be on exhibition for at least a few weeks.

More details on the exhibition will be announced.

The district will also include residential areas, although their size and the projected number of residents have yet to be determined.

URA will work with the KCAP team and relevant agencies to incorporate the feedback - where appropriate - before finalising the masterplan by the end of the year.

The Straits Times understands that the plan will be implemented in stages over the next 10 to 30 years once construction begins.

KCAP founder Kees Christiaanse said the district would give one "a balance between very large park spaces and very dense built-up spaces, and this creates a very unique spatial configuration".

Mr Christiaanse, the lead architect for the team, noted that this would make the whole neighbourhood a landmark along the shores of Jurong Lake, a reservoir.

*** Land acquisition has started for KL-Singapore High Speed Rail: Malaysian PM Najib
Najib launches concept designs for Malaysia's seven stops along high-speed rail corridor
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 18 Oct 2017

The land acquisition process for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) has begun, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.

Datuk Seri Najib said MyHSR, the Malaysian delivery partner for the bilateral project, has submitted applications to freeze land development so the viability of the pre-selected corridor for the 350km line can be studied. A three-month public consultation will be launched on Nov 1 to allow Malaysians to give feedback or raise concerns on the route. Information will be made available at key locations along the HSR corridor.

"These selected areas are further refined to reflect public feedback on the alignment," Mr Najib said when launching concept designs for Malaysia's seven HSR stops.

MyHSR's commercial director Tonny Yeap said actual land acquisition could start by mid-2018.

Kuala Lumpur and Singapore signed an agreement last December to build and complete the HSR by 2026. The line will have eight stations. Singapore's station will be in Jurong East, while there will be seven stops in Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri. Most of the line - 335km of it - will be in Malaysia, with the remaining 15km in Singapore.

Responding to reports that developers of Forest City in Johor have lobbied the government to place a station in the mega property project just west of the Second Link crossing between Singapore and Malaysia, MyHSR chief executive Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal said the Land Public Transport Commission is looking at the proposal.

"They will come up with a decision with the government. As of now, we have seven stations in Malaysia and one in Singapore. I can't speak for the future, but our current plan is to focus on these stations," he said.

When asked about potential bidders for the HSR project, Datuk Nur Ismal said two industry briefings have been held in Singapore and London. "We are made to understand that activities leading up to the tender are very exciting. And various parties are teaming up to bid."

He said there will likely be multiple bids when the call for tender is launched at the year end. Bids will be submitted by mid-2018.

The non-stop express service between the two capitals is expected to take just 90 minutes. The journey currently takes four hours by car.

Malaysia will also run a domestic transit service to stop at every station between Kuala Lumpur and Iskandar Puteri.

A Singapore-Iskandar Puteri shuttle service will also be offered.

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