Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail: French firms keen on project

CAZAUX (France) - French companies are among the foreign players who are keen on participating in the planned high-speed rail project between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said yesterday.

But the project is not yet at a stage where decisions about the best contenders are being made, Mr Lui told reporters in France, where he is accompanying President Tony Tan Keng Yam on a state visit.

Speaking to reporters at the Cazaux Air Base in south-west France, he said: "For us now, what we try to do is make sure we learn as much as we can about all the possible systems that could fit the Singapore-KL high-speed rail."

Singapore also needs to have deep discussions with Malaysia on "a whole range of regulatory, structural, financial, commercial, operational matters" on the project, said Mr Lui, who is also Second Minister for Defence.

"It's quite a complicated project, with many different permutations, many different possibilities."

The two countries need to reach an agreement on various aspects - including how to select the best candidates for the project - before they can put out a tender into the market, he said.

France's high-speed train network, the TGV, operates across the country and links it to its neighbours, including Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Even before the state visit, the French had expressed interest in the Singapore-KL project, Mr Lui said.

Many French companies are already involved in Singapore's transport system, he said.

Some examples include Thales Group, which has provided revenue collection systems and resignalling upgrades for some MRT lines, and Alstom, which has supplied new MRT trains.

Another French company, Bollore Group, is among those who have submitted a proposal for a new electric car-sharing scheme in Singapore, Mr Lui revealed yesterday.

Last year, the Land Transport Authority and the Economic Development Board asked firms to table proposals for the scheme, which would allow people to pick up electric cars at one location and leave them at another.

The two agencies are still evaluating the proposals and have been engaging possible contenders. Mr Lui met Bollore Group representatives while in Paris earlier this week for an update. "Hopefully, by the end of the year, we can see how we can take a step forward" on the scheme, he said.

NUR ASYIQIN MOHAMAD SALLEH