Japan eyes Singapore-Malaysia bullet train after S$21.1 billion rail deal in India

Shinkansen bullet trains sit on the platform of Tokyo Station in Tokyo, Japan.
Shinkansen bullet trains sit on the platform of Tokyo Station in Tokyo, Japan.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan, fresh from a US$15 billion (S$21.1 billion) rail win in India over China, aims to sell its bullet trains to a high-speed line being planned between Singapore and the Malaysian capital, opening a new market for companies from Hitachi Ltd. to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The government supports such a bid, Japanese Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday (Dec 15). Cooperation between the government and business leaders was crucial in clinching the deal with India last week, he said.

Japan, which built the world's first high-speed train more than half a century ago, is stepping up efforts to export its bullet-train technology to meet a pledge by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to triple infrastructure exports to 30 trillion yen (S$349.7 billion) by 2020. Singapore and Malaysia have proposed a rail line connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur that will cut the travel time for the 300km journey to 90 minutes from at least four hours by road.

Malaysia and Singapore received close to 250 submissions after calling for a request for information for the project, and 98 were shortlisted, the New Straits Times reported on Tuesday. Fourteen foreign entities among the 98 were asked to present their views, including France's Alstom SA, Germany's Siemens AG, Spain's CAF and Talgo SA, Canada's Bombardier Inc., a group led by China Railway, as well as consortiums from Japan and South Korea, the paper reported, without saying where it had obtained the names.

China is the main supplier of rolling stock in Malaysia, with 80 per cent of the market, said Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, chairman of Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission, according to the newspaper. China has expressed "keen interest" in the Singapore- Kuala Lumpur project, but it all boils down "to competition", he was quoted as saying.

Japan beat China for India's first high-speed rail contract. The South Asian country picked Japan to help build a 505km railway connecting India's financial capital of Mumbai with Ahmedabad, a major economic and industrial hub in Gujarat state, according to an announcement by the two nations on Saturday.

Hitachi makes bullet trains. Mitsubishi Heavy manages the construction of high-speed train projects, including the first export of Japan's bullet-train technology to Taiwan.