S’pore-KL line will cut travel time between the two places to 90 minutes.
Compiled by Eileen Aung-Thwin
The Straits Times IN
May 18, 2015
The Singapore terminus for the high-speed rail (HSR) to Kuala Lumpur will be located in the Jurong Lake District in Jurong East.
The original completion target of 2020, however, has been scrapped and the new timeline will be unveiled by the end of the year, after both countries have agreed on all major issues of the project.
The HSR and its 2020 target completion date were announced in February 2013 at the annual retreat for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Once completed, it will cut travel time between Singapore and KL to 90 minutes.
Analysts hailed the HSR as a major breakthrough in bilateral ties between the neighbours.
After this year’s retreat, both leaders agreed to push back the completion date due to the complexity of the 350km-long project. The leaders disclosed that they had agreed on some issues. For example, Malaysia would host the depot and stabling facilities.
However, many more major issues have to be resolved. These include the design of the line, funding sources, and how the debt and equity would be divided between the two countries.
Both parties also have to decide how the line is to be built – whether each would build its own portion and meet in the middle, or if one company would be contracted to build the entire line.
Despite the delay and the challenges of such a massive project, both prime ministers pledged their full commitment to the rail link, which they said was the most important project on the bilateral agenda.
In announcing the terminus location for Singapore, PM Lee said it would “change the face” of Jurong and fit in nicely with the Government’s ambitious plans to makeover the Jurong Lake District.
Three location options were initially identified – the city centre, Tuas and Jurong East. PM Lee said that while the city centre would be the most convenient for commuters, space was in short supply for a project as large and ambitious as this. Although Tuas offered the greatest ease of construction, few businesses were located there.
In addition to the HSR, both countries will take steps to further improve connectivity between them. New travel links, such as a Rapid Transit System connecting Johor Baru and Singapore and the Friendship Bridge, which is a third bridge crossing, are being discussed.
Both sides are working towards more train trips between Johor Baru and Woodlands Train Checkpoint, as well as more ferry services between Changi Ferry Terminal and Tanjung Belungkor.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Government plans to develop Jurong East into Singapore’s largest commercial hub outside the city.
The area is already a major transport node where the East-West, North-South and upcoming Jurong Region MRT lines meet.
Experts said the high-speed rail terminus would drive up property prices and increase commercial and retail activity in the Jurong Lake District.
They also expect the HSR to benefit business travellers who shuttle frequently between both countries, as well as boost industries such as tourism and the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
However, analysts expect budget airlines’ business to be hard hit as the HSR is likely to be priced close to budget airfares.
Industry players estimate that commuters may pay between $80 and $90 a trip. Currently, travellers pay between $25 and $50 for a five-hour bus ride, and about $80 for a 45-minute budget flight to travel between Singapore and KL. A full-service flight costs about $250.