Cross-Border Railways Bill passed with amendments

An artist's impression of the High Speed Rail Terminal in Jurong East. The new law supports the development of the future Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail, and the Singapore-Johor Rapid Transit System link.
An artist's impression of the High Speed Rail Terminal in Jurong East. The new law supports the development of the future Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail, and the Singapore-Johor Rapid Transit System link.PHOTO: FARRELLS

A new law governing the construction and running of two future rail links between Singapore and Malaysia was passed in Parliament yesterday.

The Cross-Border Railways Bill was read for the third time, following amendments that will give appointed railway assets and train services operators more room to negotiate for funding from private financiers.

The law supports the development of the future Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR), which is targeted to be ready by the end of 2026, and the Singapore-Johor Rapid Transit System link, which is set to open by the end of 2024.

In the first iteration of the Bill, operators were barred from transferring or assigning their commercial contracts to a third party.

Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament yesterday: "Based on industry feedback, as well as written representations received, we noted that such clauses may deter private financiers from lending to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR Assets Company, or AssetsCo, for which the tender is ongoing.

"This is because the future cash flows under the AssetsCo contract cannot be used as collateral," Mr Ng explained.

The AssetsCo, which is expected to be chosen by the end of this year , will be responsible for designing, building, financing and maintaining all rolling stock. The appointed firm will also build, operate and maintain rail assets.

Mr Ng said that to "strike a balance between government oversight and commercial viability", the Bill was amended to allow a transfer of contracts, but with the Minister for Transport's approval.

The amendments were proposed by an eight-member Select Committee, chaired by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin. It was tasked to review the Bill, following its second reading in Parliament last November.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2018, with the headline 'Cross-Border Railways Bill passed with amendments'. Print Edition | Subscribe