The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is looking for consultants to gauge the financial viability of the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project, as well as the commercial risks that it may be exposed to.
In the first such move to assess the viability of the project before tenders are called to finance and build the 350km HSR line, the LTA said the appointed consultant will scrutinise "various entities involved in the whole project".
A spokesman added: "It will take into account factors such as operating patterns and risk management strategies, as well as basic assumptions for the line design."
She said the study would be for the entire line and not just the Singapore portion.
The study will commence early next year, and is expected to be completed by the middle of the year.
The consultant will also examine the various possible commercial and operating models for the project. For instance, the consultant may look at whether the line will be operated separately at both ends of the border, or whether it is more feasible to run it through a single entity that is a joint venture between the two countries.
Financial models may also be examined, such as whether the project will be entirely state-funded, or be launched as a PPP (public-private partnership).
Dr Walter Theseira, an economist at SIM University, said one challenge would be "how to apportion costs and revenue", as the line would involve journeys between cities within Malaysia.
Dr Theseira noted, however, that one could argue such trips would not have taken place without Singapore as a destination.
"One way would be to look to examples in Europe where such inter-city high-speed rail lines exist," he said.
Malaysia's Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (Spad, or its equivalent of the Land Transport Authority) and the LTA have received 98 submissions in response to their Request for Information exercise on the Kuala Lumpur- Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project.
In a joint statement yesterday, the two parties said respondents were from "across the HSR value chain", and include companies based in Malaysia, Singapore, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
More than half (56 per cent), however, were from Europe, with East Asia accounting for the next biggest group of respondents (14 per cent). The latter group is understood to include Japanese and Chinese entities.
Singapore and Malaysia expect to finalise the commercial model and procurement approach of the project by next year, the statement added.