The HSR will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes

Japan rail operators are very optimistic of winning the bid to develop and run the proposed High-Speed Rail (HSR) between Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Keichi Ischii, Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, attributed said that they have a “very high” chance of winning. Ischii attributed the Shinkansen, the Japanese bullet train, for its safety, efficiency and reliability record, which should give the rail operators the edge of the competition.

The HSR will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which are over 400km apart, to just 90 minutes. Completion is set for 2026.

Singapore and Malaysia signed the landmark Memorandum of Understanding this week, which lays out the regulatory and financing framework of the project.

Whilst Ischii did not reveal a cost estimate, he did state that Japan’s private and pulic sector will support the project, “in terms of finance, human development, and development of facilities surrounding the terminal stations.”

“We would like to transfer the Shinkansen technology to the countries, and also provide help in human resources development. If we talk about HSR in general, we need many passengers to ride on the trains – so in terms of competition with the airlines, how much market share can we grab from the airlines?”

A major challenge for the project is its cross-border nature. Ministry of Land, Infastructure, Transport and Tourism Railway Bureau director, Tomohiro Kobayashi said,

“I think what makes this project very challenging, is that it is dealt between two countries,” he said. “So you have to deal with this border security management … this is something that we do not see when we run the Shinkansen just within Japan.”

Both Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to common customs, immigration and quarantine facilities in Kuala Lumpur, Iskandar Puteri and Singapore, to prevent multiple checks.