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Thursday, 14 May 2015

China says: we can build High Speed Rail by 2020; Malaysia and Singapore push back deadline

Making connections: Liow (left) speaking with Liu Yunshan, secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. - By Patrick Lee The Star/Asia News Network

KUALA LUMPUR: China is confident that it can build the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) line by 2020.

China embassy’s economic and commercial counsellor Wu Zhengping expressed confidence that the original target date could be met – within certain parameters.

“Technically, it’s possible if Chinese companies are awarded the contract. We will be able to achieve that by 2020. We’ve still got five years,” he told The Star in an interview.

He was commenting on reports that the HSR line would not meet its original target date.

Wu pointed out that it took a mere three years to build the 1,318km Beijing-Shanghai HSR line, which was completed in 2010. It opened to the public in June 2011.

The 350km Kuala Lumpur-Singapore line is expected to cost about RM40bil while there are matters between Malaysia and Singapore which are expected to be ironed out by year end.

Wu said China was determined to build the line, adding that it would fall in with its plans to link Kunming to Singapore via some 2,700km of rail.

Calling it the “Pan-Asian Railway”, he indicated that this would cut through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.

He added that not all of this railway might be high-speed lines, especially in Laos, which has rough, mountainous terrain.

Wu said the HSR traffic might not be enough to justify building such a line but spoke of an economic “spillover effect” if it were to happen.

Chinese companies here, he added, might even start to develop areas near the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur line.

“If China is awarded the contract (in Malaysia), we’ll encourage Chinese companies to locate their factories and firms along the railway line,” he said.

He also said there were plans to build high-speed train cars in Malaysia should China be given the contract.

Asked what would China do if Chinese companies were unable to win the HSR bid, Wu said Malaysia had given assurance that this would be “open, fair and transparent”.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who is in Beijing on an official visit, said while he welcomed the offer from China, the open tender would only be called after details of the project had been thrashed out between Malaysia and Singapore.

He said a memorandum bet­ween the two countries would be signed by end of this year, adding that it would then take another year to complete the technical study.

“By then, only we would know what is the actual period (needed to build the line).

“It is too early to say that the project can be completed by 2020 when we do not have the details yet,” he said.

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Singapore, Malaysia push back deadline for high-speed rail link -

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Malaysia have decided to push back an initial deadline of 2020 for the completion of a high-speed rail link between the wealthy city state and Kuala Lumpur, their prime ministers said on Tuesday, citing the complexity of the project.

The Southeast Asian neighbours said they hoped to reach agreement by the end of the year on a new timeline for the railway link, which will cut travel time between the cities to 90 minutes.

"We looked at the original timeline of 2020, and think it is not really realistic," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a news conference, adding that the project was very challenging to carry out.

"We have to take a bit more time to do it well, but to do it without delay."

Singapore and Malaysia set a completion date of 2020 when they announced plans for the high-speed rail link in February 2013, but gave no estimate of the project cost.

Hailed at the time as a major breakthrough by some analysts, the announcement reflected an improvement in ties between the neighbours. Singapore was once part of Malaysia but they separated acrimoniously in 1965, clouding diplomatic and economic dealings for decades.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said construction of the link with the Malaysian capital would take five years, design one year and the tendering process another year. "We both decided that bilateral issues pertaining to the high-speed rail project will be settled by the end of the year," Najib said.

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