Bids for the tender to build the High-Speed Rail (HSR) linking Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be evaluated at the end of 2018, according to MyHSR, the agency in charge of the Malaysian share of the project.
Tender documents for the systems package - for the actual rail track and train carriages - will be issued at the end of next year, MyHSR chief executive Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal said when giving a timeline of the project for the first time.
"After the tender is open in the final quarter of 2017, bidders will be given a year to submit. Then the two countries will do the evaluation," he said after a briefing about the project yesterday.
The briefing by MyHSR and Malaysia's land public transport regulators, SPAD, was held ahead of next week's signing of a binding agreement between the two neighbouring countries to execute the 350km rail project.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will witness the signing in Putrajaya with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak during their bilateral Leaders' Retreat.
There has been heavy speculation that Malaysia favours handing the systems package to a Chinese company, as Beijing has invested tens of billions in several giant government projects lately, including taking a stake in assets once owned by a Malaysian state investment firm.
Officials have said that the tender process will be fair and transparent.
The HSR is set to travel at speeds of up to 320kmh when it is ready in 2026, and will move passengers between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in 90 minutes. The alternative land journey between Kuala Lumpur and the Republic using a car takes at least four hours.
The Malaysian terminus is in the upcoming Bandar Malaysia township at the edge of downtown Kuala Lumpur. The line's Singapore terminus will be in the upcoming Jurong Lake District.
Customs, immigration and quarantine facilities for the railway will be co-located at three stops: Singapore, Iskandar Puteri (formerly Nusajaya) and Kuala Lumpur.
Besides the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur express service, the line will have a domestic service within Malaysia, stopping at Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh, Seremban and Putrajaya.
Malaysia's economic planning minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the HSR fares would be benchmarked against air travel and be determined by market forces.