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South Korean transport minister to promote HSR

SEOUL (June 6): The South Korean ministry of land, infrastructure and transport (Molit) plans to engage with the relevant parties in Malaysia to promote its high-speed rail (HSR) technology, in a move to facilitate a South Korean consortium’s bid for the upcoming 375km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project.

In an interview with media delegates, Molit Minister Kang Hoin said he will be travelling to Kuala Lumpur on June 14 to promote South Korean HSR technology, but did not elaborate the specific Malaysian government officials who he plans to meet.

“We can build the HSR system, manufacture the rolling stocks and run the operation by using [South] Korean technology. Although we did export some parts of [our] rolling stocks to Turkey before this, but never before we exported the entire system supported by our technology. So if we secure the KL-Singapore HSR, it will be the first case for [South] Korea to export the whole HSR system,” he said.

Although South Korea’s experience in HSR development only began in 2004, through technology transfer from French rail company Alstom SA, Kang said Korea Rail Network Authority (KRNA) had managed to fully localise and develop its own technology.

While he is proud of his country’s HSR technology development, Kang conceded that South Korea is still slightly behind Chinese and Japanese bidders in terms of financial schemes.

Nevertheless, he opined that South Korean bidders had an edge in terms of technology, which offers a HSR system with higher efficiency that would led to lower costs of operation and maintenance.

Kang pointed out that construction usually constitutes 30% of the total cost of a HSR project, while the remaining 70% is normally accounted for management and maintenance costs.

“Malaysia and [South] Korea were not very active in transportation collaboration. But [South] Korea is very strong in technological transfer, so in this aspect, in the longer term, we can help save a lot of cost[s] in management and maintenance of [the] KL-Singapore HSR,” he said.

Kang added that currently, not only is the consortium interested in the KL-Singapore HSR project, but several senior government officials including himself are very keen to secure the construction works.

“That is why since last year, we have been very active in promoting our technology to the Malaysian government; we even set up a [South] Korean rail technology exhibition centre in KL,” he said.

Last November, the Malaysian Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that they had received 98 submissions in response to a joint request for information exercise for the KL-Singapore HSR project.

Spad and the LTA said these companies and consortia come from across the HSR value chain, which includes entities based in Malaysia, Singapore, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

Of the total submissions, 13 were from Malaysia, 56 from Europe, 14 from East Asia, seven from North America, four from Singapore, three from Oceania, and one from the Middle East.

Both agencies also mentioned that the governments of Malaysia and Singapore expect to finalise the commercial model and procurement approach of the project by this year.

South Korea, being one of the candidates from East Asia, has formed a 27-firm consortium led by KRNA, a rail construction unit under the country’s Molit.

The construction of the KL-Singapore HSR was to have started in the third quarter of 2015. However, the commencement of works was postponed to 2017, with completion in 2022.

Originally, Singapore and Malaysia had announced that the HSR proposal would be finalised by the end of 2014, with a targeted completion date in 2020.

The KL-Singapore HSR project is expected to trim travel time between the two cities to about 90 minutes, compared with up to five hours by road.

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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on June 6, 2016. Subscribe to The Edge Financial Daily here.

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