KL should also consider benefits of the HSR

It is premature to tie the fortunes of the Jurong Lake District so closely with the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) line (Jurong Lake District may be affected by scrapping of HSR; May 29).

A world-leading precinct for high technology research, incubation and advanced manufacturing could rise from the district over the next decades, with or without the HSR.

Our Malaysian brothers and sisters will continue to be more than welcome to do business here.

Both sides will just have to adjust and factor in extra travel time between Singapore and KL - three to four hours if we travel by air, and more than double that if we travel by road.

But time, as they say, is money.

The KL-Singapore HSR project is a win-win deal which seeks to cut down the current time-consuming cross-border travel for greater connectivity and productivity between both cities.

While it must be shocking for the new Malaysian government to reportedly discover so many financial irregularities on its books, I sincerely hope it does not treat the HSR project as a panacea to rid itself of these alleged excesses.

Only Putrajaya can answer the question of how the project costs could have ballooned so much and why Malaysia feels it will not make a single cent out of the venture.

I am sure Singapore stands ready to work with Malaysia to explore the best ways to bring down the costs of implementing the HSR project to meet Putrajaya's budgetary concerns at this stage.

And this is just the first stage. The HSR has the potential to extend all the way to Kedah and the Malaysian-Thai border in future.

Imagine the boost to trade, tourism and sustainable development across the west coast of Malaysia thanks to the convenience brought about by the HSR on its own, and as a complement to the North-South Expressway.

Anyone who has travelled between Tokyo and Osaka on the Shinkansen can vouch for the comfort of riding the high-speed bullet train, compared to driving or flying between these cities.

Would Putrajaya not want the same long-term benefits for, say, Kuala Lumpur and Penang vis-a-vis Singapore, with the Malaysian cities acting as viable hubs of this international network across continental South-east Asia and beyond?

In short, the success of any project, including the KL-Singapore HSR project, must be predicated on dynamic costs-benefits analysis, and not merely on costs.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2018, with the headline 'KL should also consider benefits of the HSR'. Print Edition | Subscribe