Singapore-Kuala Lumpur distance 'ideal for high-speed rail'

Track removal work progresss at the KTM Bukit Timah railway station. Experts believe that the distance between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is ideal for a high-speed rail. --STPHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN 
Track removal work progresss at the KTM Bukit Timah railway station. Experts believe that the distance between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is ideal for a high-speed rail. --STPHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN 

The estimated distance of 320km to 340km between Singapore and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is ideal for a high-speed rail, say experts.

Studies by high-speed rail experts in Japan show there is a distance sweet spot where commuters would opt for the train over a bus or a plane.

At 515km - the stretch between Tokyo and Osaka - the Shinkansen accounts for 77 per cent of the travel market. But between Tokyo and Fukuoka, a 1,069km, five-hour journey, the train holds only a 9 per cent share, and the airplane, a whopping 90 per cent.

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route is closest in distance to the Shinakansen's Tokyo-Nagoya route, which runs for 342km.

The study found that the bulk, or 71 per cent, of Japanese commuters would opt for the train, 23 per cent would favour the car, 5 per cent would travel by bus and 1 per cent by plane.

For Singapore-Kuala Lumpur, low-cost airlines currently occupy about 60 per cent of the market, based on an analysis by the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation.

However, this may change when the high-speed rail is built. Going by an online poll conducted by The Straits Times, 86 per cent of the 1,170 respondents said they were looking forward to the new high-speed rail.

Close to 80 per cent said they would travel to Malaysia more often once the rail opens. Most said they would travel for leisure (60 per cent) while the rest of those polled said they would travel for business or to visit family.

Asked how much they would pay for a single trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, 59 per cent said they would pay no more than $50 while 33 per cent said they would pay up to $100.

Travellers, however, may have to be prepared to pay more. For a 90-minute, 320km trip from Sendai to Tokyo, for example, a ticket costs about 10,890 yen (S$120).

Currently, people travelling from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur pay between $30 and $50 for a 51/2-hour bus ride or about $250 for a 45-minute full-service flight.

Tokyo resident Suzuki Hiromi, 31, uses the Shinkansen only two to three times a year, to travel to Aomori to visit her family. The trip takes about 31/2 hours and costs over 17,350 yen. "It's a little bit expensive," she said.