Drawing travellers to high-speed rail

There is a general consensus that the high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will bring immeasurable economic benefits to both countries ("Ending high-speed rail in S'pore a win-win for all"; by Mr Lin Howard, June 27), but there are other key concerns that will affect whether people use the link instead of driving or catching a flight.

First, there is the cost factor. One can catch a basic budget flight to Kuala Lumpur for $60. If the HSR is able to bring prices down to a similar price, then people will be attracted to using it. Given the project's huge price tag and operational costs, this is a very tall order.

To reduce the ticket price, the service providers might consider providing other services that will attract people.

For example, there could be a service to allow people to take their cars on board a special carriage. There could be "quiet carriages", where noise and babies are not allowed. There could be on-board entertainment, children's play areas or even an on-board spa or arcade. Such features might attract people to ride the train.

The HSR might also consider running other modes of transport, such as cargo trains. The cargo terminal could be located in Tuas, branching off the main line and ending at the port in the area. This will boost trade between both countries, as well as go towards subsidising operational and maintenance costs.

Then, there is the time factor. Currently, it takes about an hour for a flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

But if you add the time it takes to clear immigration and security checks, the total time taken rises to about three hours.

If the HSR can match or even reduce the time taken, then, more people will be enticed to ride it.

Finally, there is the convenience factor. Without compromising on border security, the HSR must make it convenient for travellers.

Connectivity to other transport networks such as the MRT has been discussed. But simple things such as walking distances, refreshments, wheelchair accessibility and luggage allowance will make a world of difference to travellers.

As the trains will be electric, there will be the added bonus of reducing emissions. Some travellers might take comfort in that.

B. Nathish Vel