KUALA LUMPUR: Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has dismissed reports that the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail project (HSR) may be delayed, despite having previously hinted that there might be “problems” with the timeline of the project’s expected completion.
In his opening remarks at the “High Speed Rail Seminar: Sharing 50 Years’ Experience of the Shinkansen” yesterday, SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said the question of delay does not arise as the project has yet to begin.
“I wish to reiterate that our plan to complete it (the project) by 2020 is still on track. The question of whether the date is going to be met or not does not arise yet. There is no question of delay because the project has not started. Only when we go to market and the parties to construct or undertake the project have been identified, and if the timeline is not met, then there will be delay,” he added.
He said the Singapore government is looking into the details of the project, hinting that there were “economic and political sensitivities” that needed to be resolved.
“Singapore is looking into all the details as it involves two sovereign states which have their own economic and political sensitivities that we have to handle and resolve,” he added.
But when questioned by reporters later, Syed Hamid said there are no issues so far between the two countries and that the working relationship has been affable.
“In my own experience under the current leadership, [both parties] seem to be working really well and at the official level; discussions have been very good, very positive, very constructive and the atmosphere has been very friendly,” he added.
Bloomberg recently quoted Syed Hamid as hinting that there may be a delay with the completion of the project.
“However, Putrajaya recognises there may be problems with the original timeline. There are other factors besides construction Putrajaya needs to study,” he was quoted as saying.
He also reportedly said the project is slated to begin in 2016 and may take six to seven years to be completed.
The Edge Review reported in its Oct 24 issue that funding and bilateral issues between the two countries may delay the project.
The report, quoting sources close to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration, revealed that financial constraints are compelling the country to look at alternative funding resources.
The report had also stated that Singapore may have to foot a larger chunk of the project’s bill.
The 340km rail link is estimated to cost RM39.2 billion and is projected to cut travelling time from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by more than half to 90 minutes.
Japan may step in to help overcome funding issues should the project face financial hiccups and provide expertise as well as technological know-how.
Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism State Minister Akihiko Nishimura said the Japan Overseas Infrastructure and Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development is ready to assist Malaysia in the implementation of the project.
“We are ready to give maximum support to Malaysia in terms of financing and technical support,” he told reporters after officiating the seminar.
“As for the amount, it is not fixed and will depend on the type of requirements from the Malaysian side,” he said, adding that there are various Japanese agencies that can help with funding, including the Japan Bank for Investment Cooperation.
It is up to the Malaysian and Singapore governments to draw up a master plan and determine a feasible route according to the topography of the land and if Japan gets the deal, the fundamentals of the HSR will be the same as the Shinkansen rail system, said East Japan Railway Company executive vice-president Yuji Fukasawa, who was also present.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 5, 2014.