Singapore-KL high-speed rail

Big boost likely for social, economic, bilateral ties

The Jurong Country Club site where the terminus of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail will be located.
The Jurong Country Club site where the terminus of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail will be located. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is comforting to hear that the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail (HSR) will likely start working in 10 years' time ("Singapore-KL high-speed rail: MOU a significant step forward"; yesterday).

Some have criticised the slow pace of this project, compared to similar ones in China.

However, any infrastructure project across borders must go through arduous negotiations to ensure that minimal problems will arise during the actual operation.

Reaching agreement on a memorandum of understanding relatively quickly shows the sense of urgency, as both countries see immense opportunities from this project.

First, the HSR link is good news to passengers and families with relatives in Malaysia.

For Singaporeans visiting Malaysia to visit relatives or for annual holidays, this will be an additional option that is faster and likely cheaper than an air ticket. This is especially helpful during the festive season, as this new mode of transport can ensure prices remain competitive.

Second, this project is good for Singapore's economy in the long run. The HSR link will open up greater possibilities for more Malaysians or even Singaporeans working here to live in Malaysia instead. This could play a part in further relieving pressure on our overheated property market.

As more people turn to rail, this would be good news for a transport system that is approaching capacity, be it road or air.

This means shorter queues at the Causeway for truck drivers hauling goods, likely leading to lower logistics costs, which could keep inflation in check.

The HSR link could help take the pressure off the growing trend of rising air traffic at Changi Airport - it would be immensely difficult to build even more terminals on our land-scarce island.

Lastly, the HSR link will deepen the bilateral ties between the two countries. The recent droughts that affected Johor are a case in point. Singapore agreed to additional requests for treated water without hesitation, turning away from the water politics that has brought immense harm to so many countries before. This cooperation is vital because geography is destiny. Cooperation, rather than confrontation, is what will take the two countries forward.

To conclude, the high-speed rail link carries much potential. The sheer scale and cost of this project means high expectations from the public at each stage of the process.

For those involved in the project, it is important that they do not disappoint, for public support will play the key role in determining whether the HSR link can be successful.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Big boost likely for social, economic, bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe