KL-S'pore HSR gathers momentum

KUALA LUMPUR: Some local companies are said to be talking to each other and several potential foreign partners to participate in the multi-billion ringgit high-speed rail (HSR) link connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, industry analysts said.

These companies include Gamuda Bhd, WCT Holdings Bhd, Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd, YTL Corp Bhd, UEM Group Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd.

"WCT and Gamuda have been heard to be in serious talks … they are planning to get joint venture partners from China," an analyst at Hong Leong Investment Bank told The Edge Financial Daily yesterday.

He said despite the market talk it is still too early to tell which companies would be shortlisted for the job, the cost of which, as reported earlier, is in excess of RM30 billion.

He expects construction of the HSR to kick-start at the earliest by 2016. “Something concrete should emerge not long from now," he said.

Alliance Research analyst Jeremy Goh shares the same opinion on the main project bidders, noting that they are expected to participate in the HSR project.

He said the HSR contract would likely be granted to companies that have teamed up with foreign partners via a joint venture, as local players are deemed to lack experience in building high speed rail links.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri told the Dewan Rakyat that the final technical report on the feasibility study on the HSR link is now in the final stage of being drawn up and should be completed by the end of this month.

The minister said the report will contain detailed assessments of the project's various technical and engineering aspects, financial and operational costs as well as economic benefits.

"We have yet to share the information with the Singapore government. As you know, the project involves two countries.

"It would be unfair if we do not tell them first," Nancy said in reply to a question from Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), who had asked about the status of the HSR project and whether the railway line would pass through all the major cities in Peninsular Malaysia.

Kok had also enquired whether the project would undergo an open tender. The minister, however, did not elaborate, saying that the government will consider the best mechanism based on existing procedures and guidelines.  

It was earlier reported that the HSR would run through the Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor.

Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong gave the nod for the HSR project earlier this year.

The exact cost of the project has not been officially announced but the project is estimated to cost a minimum of RM30 billion. The railway line will cover 330km across the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which translates into a cost of about RM91 million per km. Travel time between the two capitals is expected to take 90 minutes.

The HSR, targeted for completion in 2020, will complement the proposed rapid transit system (RTS) link that connects Johor Baru to Singapore's Thomson Line, which is slated for completion by 2019.

YTL Corp's Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, who first mooted the HSR idea several years ago, has publicly indicated his interest in the project.

Tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is also said to be keen in taking a stab at the project through a consortium comprising his company, MMC Corp, and Gamuda Bhd. The two companies are currently involved in the construction of the first phase of the mass rapid transit project in the Klang Valley.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 10, 2013.


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