Malaysian media upbeat on project but doubts remain

A train leaves KL Sentral station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 19.
A train leaves KL Sentral station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 19. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

A game changer for Malaysia. High-speed rail to provide economic spurts. Stateside folks looking forward to rail plan.

The Malaysian media yesterday gave an upbeat assessment of the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the high-speed rail (HSR) project, saying the country would witness positive development once operations start in 2026.

The faster mode of transport will increase the flow between residents of the two capitals while pit stops southwards of Kuala Lumpur can expect an economic boom, the New Straits Times (NST) pointed out.

Financial daily The Edge said property developers and construction firms stand to benefit from the plan, with companies owning land along the HSR route being potential beneficiaries. Malaysia's line is expected to be built mostly above ground.

But there were also some questions raised. Berita Harian cited transport experts questioning some of the chosen pit stops. The close proximity between some stations was seen as diluting the purpose of having an HSR running through.

"There are views that the Putrajaya station is too close to the Bandar Malaysia terminus - that is roughly 26km and is not suitable for the HSR service that has a speed of 320kmh," the paper wrote.

A transport expert it quoted said a distance of less than 50km between stations could disrupt the performance of the HSR and hinder it from reaching its maximum speed.

NST mentioned Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan as saying that the unexpected inclusion of Putrajaya as a stop is to get the best deal out of the project.

Meanwhile, The Star, in an editorial, raised concerns over ticket prices. The daily said the affordability of tickets would need to be addressed to achieve the projected 20 million users a year.

"If the HSR is to be successful, the cost of travel needs to be competitive when compared with the costs of other land-based transportation modes," the paper wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian media upbeat on project but doubts remain'. Print Edition | Subscribe