As plans for a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore become more concrete, European builders are throwing their names into the hat.
Siemens of Germany, Alstom of France, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane of Italy and Porr of Austria are forming a consortium with Malaysian engineering group George Kent to bid for the mega project, it was announced yesterday.
They will prepare a joint offer encompassing engineering, procurement and construction, as well as operations and maintenance roles.
The 350km rail link, targeted to be completed by 2026, has already drawn strong interest from Chinese and Japanese bidders.
Ten Japanese companies, including East Japan Railway and Sumitomo Corp, have joined forces to put in a bid. And a Chinese consortium of eight companies led by China Railway Corp will also be competing for the project.
Bids must be submitted by the middle of this year, with the contract expected to be awarded by year-end.
The European consortium brings together Siemens and Alstom, which have had extensive experience in building cross-border high-speed railway projects. Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane has expertise in railway operations. George Kent brings with it local knowledge of the Malaysian market. It is partnering Porr, a track work provider.
Commenting on the bid, Alstom Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Jean-Francois Beaudoin said: "Alstom, with its expertise in complex high-speed projects, has been keenly looking at this tender and seeking the best partnerships - locally and internationally - to offer the finest solution to Singapore and Malaysia.
"I believe we have a powerful and competent team to address this tender - with the best of European rail companies and George Kent as our local partner."
A joint tender for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project was issued by the Malaysian and Singaporean government-owned utilities MyHSR Corp and SG HSR on Dec 20.
The high-speed rail will cut down door-to-door journey times between the two cities to 90 minutes, from around four hours by car today. The trains will be travelling at around 350kmh.
Observers reckon the Chinese have an edge because of their extensive recent experience in building a domestic high-speed rail network, the world's most extensive.
The Japanese, however, have a reputation for quality as well as the longest history of building such projects. The Europeans are experienced in building cross-border rail links.