Japan will make all-out bid for KL-Singapore high-speed rail project

Artist's impression of the upcoming Iskandar Puteri High Speed Rail station in Johor, Malaysia. PHOTO: EDELMAN

KUALA LUMPUR - Japan is making an all-out bid to construct the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR), touted as South-east Asia's largest infrastructure project.

In an interview with national news agency Bernama, Japan's ambassador to Malaysia said the Japanese bid would be a comprehensive package based on Japan's technological expertise in its renown bullet train system, the Shinkansen.

The bid will include a total transfer of technology and local vendor development to greatly benefit Malaysian and Singaporean companies, including small and medium enterprises, said Mr Makio Miyagawa.

"We will be offering our best-suited technologies to Malaysians and Singaporeans as well as full-fledged training for the officials, operators and engineers of both countries so that they can start the operations by themselves from day one," said Mr Miyagawa.

"Japan would also like to offer the most comprehensive financial package which would certainly help the two nations to reduce as much of their financial burden as possible in introducing this system," he told Bernama.

Bids for the HSR, described as a game-changing joint-venture between Malaysia and Singapore, must be submitted by the middle of 2018 with the contract expected to be awarded by year-end.

Other potential bidders for the project include China, South Korea and France.

The 350-km HSR will cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes and is projected to be completed in 2026.

Malaysia's MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd and Singapore's SG HSR Private Ltd announced on Dec 20 last year that they would start accepting bids for a railway assets company which will be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining all rail assets.

Malaysia's Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani was reported to have said that the project, which will have eight stations, would cost around RM50 to RM60 billion (S$16.6 billion to S$19.9 billion).

Mr Miyagawa pointed out that Japan's involvement in the project was consistent with the country's long-standing philosophy of economic assistance, particularly to other countries in Asia.

"The philosophy of our economic assistance has all along been in such a way that Japan has assisted the recipient nations to stand on their own feet. It would not like to dominate the benefits but to share them. It would withdraw from the operation when you are ready to take over. If you would like us to stay on for some years, we would. It is not Japan's way to win (a contract) and run away. That would be irresponsible," the ambassador added.

He said Japan had already been offering technology, human capital and financial resources to enable its companies to collaborate with companies in Malaysia and Singapore so that all the companies could advance together.

"In the high-speed rail system, our government and private sector would be ready and are very keen to collaborate with the local industries in Malaysia and Singapore so that the gradual transfer of technology and human capital will succeed and will help nations like Malaysia and Singapore, who are introducing new technologies, to operate the system right from the start," Mr Miyagawa added.

Japan's edge over other bidders, he said, should be viewed from the most important aspect in any public transport system - safety.

"Japan invented the bullet train technology. The advantage of the Shinkansen is that it has operated for almost 50 years without any fatal accident or human capital problems. This is the merit of the system which is based upon the superiority of the hardware as well as the excellence of the software operations based upon the accumulated know-how of the engineers and operators in Japan," he said.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story wrongly referred to SG HSR Pte Ltd as Singapore HSR Pte Ltd.

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