China set to win high-speed rail contract 

More than 85 per cent of track on the Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Railway is laid on viaducts. Source: Wikimedia

Chinese contractors are leading the field to win the deal to develop the high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Malaysian media has reported.

Chinese investment has paved the way for the bid for the 350km railway, according to the English-language Sunday Star in Malaysia.

The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project planned for launch within one to two years.

The project could cost RM70 billion and spur economic activity near all its stations.

Last month, China Railway Group Limited (CREC), one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises, announced a US$2 billion project to build its regional headquarters in Bandar Malaysia, the proposed terminal for the Kuala Lumpur to Singapore train line.

The announcement came after CREC’s successful bid with its Malaysian partner in December to acquire a 60-per-cent in the Bandar Malaysia project.

Firms from Japan, South Korea and France are also bidding for the rail contract.

The Chinese developers have experience of working in Malaysia on its domestic railway network and light rail projects, adding to the chances of a successful bid, according to the Star.

Chinese firms have supplied about 75 to 80 per cent of the locomotives and carriages and other equipment to Malaysia.

China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation has built its Asean manufacturing centre in Malaysia.

CREC, the parent company of Hong Kong and Shanghai listed CRCC, also promised to bring in more Chinese investment to Malaysia. These developments have convinced observers that China is likely to win the HSR project.

“On the investment and political fronts, China has made inroads and many think it is the frontrunner for the HSR project. But it is premature to say who will get it now as the joint venture company to own and manage the HSR project has not been set up yet,” says Goh Bok Yen, a well-known transportation planning consultant.

Despite being a latecomer to high-speed rail, China has developed what it claimed to be the most cost-effective, high-speed train system in the world. It hails its research and development on major train projects and lengthy tracks, although human rights groups would argue that its citizens are given little say in whether their homes are flattened for the prestigious train lines. Democratic rights have hampered the progress of other nations’ rail networks.

The governments of Malaysia and Singapore are expected to finalise the commercial model and procurement approach of the project this year.