Make clear how high-speed rail costs, revenues will be shared

The proposed high-speed rail from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is in an advanced stage of discussions, with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) due to be signed in the middle of the year ("High-speed rail MOU to be inked soon: Najib"; April 13).

The Channel Tunnel between Britain and France is a good model for us to study when determining the cost- and revenue-sharing structures in setting up the high-speed rail.

For instance, in terms of construction costs and recurring operational costs, rail lines from Singapore to Johor Baru can be on Singapore's account, and lines from JB to KL can be shared by both countries.

Costs for the KL terminal station can be shared by both countries, while the Singapore terminal station can be on Singapore's account. All other stations in Malaysia can be on Malaysia's account.

In terms of revenue sharing, revenue earned from the service within Malaysia can be Malaysia's, while revenue earned from the Singapore-KL express service can be Singapore's.

If there are indeed two train services - a non-stop express service between Singapore and KL, and a non-express service between JB and KL - there should be an equal number of trains running per day for either service.

Costs for trains and rolling stock for the two services, and depot and maintenance costs at the KL and Singapore terminals, should be borne by the respective countries.

I hope the two governments will consider these parameters in the MOU, and provide details in the final agreement to ensure the financial viability of this long-term venture.

Both sides should have consultants and experts on cross-border and rail joint ventures to guide them in working out the details.

I also hope that the agreement, after being endorsed by the parliaments of both countries, will be filed in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Tan Kok Tim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Make clear how high-speed rail costs, revenues will be shared'. Print Edition | Subscribe