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Bullet to Singapore: From KL in 90 minutes


New Straits Times, 5 July 2006

By Rajan Moses 

YTL proposes RM8 billion high-speed train link.

KUALA LUMPUR: Imagine zipping in a bullet train from the KL Sentral station into the heart of Singapore in 90 minutes flat. That is something that will become a reality if tycoon Tan Sri Francis Yeoh’s plan to build and operate such a train service at a cost of up to RM8 billion takes off.

Yeoh told the New Straits Times that the Malaysian and Singapore Governments had been informed of the proposal by YTL Corp for the fast train service.

If approved, the project will become the largest to be launched on a private finance initiative (PFI) basis, as encouraged under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Construction will take three years but it could be two years before cross-border approvals and land acquisition are obtained.

Yeoh said that if the project is approved, YTL would go to the global capital market to raise the needed funds to finance it. Partners providing the rail and train technology for the project could be either Japanese, French or German operators of fast train services.

"Every single fund manager loves this project and a lot of consumers want it. The industries want it. It’s a no-brainer. It’s the perfect alternative to air and land transport between the two hubs and will integrate them," he said.

"This is not a dream and a project that can’t be done. It can be done if there is a will to do it. And I pray that there will be this will to do it," he said.

"It will help move the economy ahead. The country now needs the boost of fresh private sector investment and we can do that with projects like this."

Yeoh said the KL-Singapore fast rail link could be an extension of the Sentral-Kuala Lumpur International Airport train service that is currently operated by YTL majority-owned Express Rail Link (ERL).

The ERL was built at a cheap cost of RM35 million per kilometre compared to other train projects in the developed world built at between RM120-RM150 million per kilometre. The ERL project received no government subsidies.

"We can extend the airport line to Singapore. We can also find ways for the rail link to pass through the newly developing southern Johor Corridor enroute to Singapore," he added.

Under the YTL proposal, a new standard gauge railway line would have to be built across the southern states to accommodate trains with wider wheels that can travel at a speed of up to 350km per hour.

The metre-gauge railway lines currently used by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) can only accommodate trains with a smaller wheel size and a maximum speed of 140 km per hour.

Yeoh said the timing was just right for the launch of the project now as the Malaysian Government was keen on it and the cost of land acquisition to build the rail connection was relatively cheap.

Land cost usually accounts for 70 per cent of the cost of such rail projects while the cost for the technology accounts for 30 per cent.

"It is the land value that is important. The land cost is still affordable now in Malaysia, unlike in Hong Kong, the US or Europe."

Yeoh said Singapore has also had a look at the project.

"I don’t think they will be that difficult. We have been chatting with them for quite a while now."

Yeoh said he was ready to accept Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines as well as the airport operators of both cities as "cornerstone investors" in the project to ensure relevant entities from both sides had a stake in the project.

The direct rail link will provide commuters with an alternative to expensive air travel and the slower journey by car or bus.

Below are the comments from readers recorded between noon and 3pm Malaysian time today.

Reader's Comments

Gurminder Singh:
Why not - if the waiting time is shorter than taking a flight and the fare is fair? I think the fare should be slightly cheaper than flight fare to Singapore.

Edwyn, Penang:
I definitely would! Its the best alternative to the expensive flight between KL and SG now. As long as the price of the tic is somewhere between the current luxury coach and the flight ticket, I'm willing to pay for it.

bal, London:
My view any form development is good news for consumer and country. Whats the fuss?

Geegee, KL:
Extremely interesting news! This will definately be my first choice of transportation if the project is going to be materialised. Anyhow, I hope it will charge a reasonable price and be more concern about the public, personally I think RM80 - RM120 should be good.

osnacar, Johor:
It's still too early a stage for such bullet train services, taking into consideration the current infrastructure, geographical and many other related factors and obstacles. Think of other alternatives for the time being. What is the success rate and popularity level of the ORIENTAL EXPESS TRAIN SERVICE? Think twice, tho' there's a saying that goes......." Taking the 1st step is better than not taking a step at all"

speedy gonzales:
It's a good idea. Now it takes too long to go to s'pore due to travel time to airport, waiting at the airport, delays etc. as long as it's cheaper than air fare, i will definitely take this.

Martin, Singapore:
As a foreigner working in Singapore, I would certainly love to have the option of arriving in KL within 90 minutes without spending up to RM1,000 per round-trip on a flight ticket. However, I would also encourage Malaysia to study the proposed benefits very carefully. I'm not sure that KL wants to turn into another "boom town" like JB, which is overrun by crowds of loud, pushy, arrogant, littering Singaporean shoppers, with their kids running wild. Not to mention to upward pressure on prices of everything including basic food items. In many, many joint Spore-Malaysia projects over the years, the big benefits and profits have gone almost exclusively to Singapore, with Malaysia being the hapless by-stander/spectator. To go down the same path and expect different results this time might be downright foolish.

nadia (kl):
This is a great idea. I will definitely use it.

Fantastic idea.I will b travelling almost every week. But the the travelling cost must be reasonable.

N.Malika, Seremban:
RM40 for oneway and RM60 for a return ticket would be reasonable. Thks.

Jason-Kansas City:
Yes. RM60 - one way.

WH, Ipoh:
Best idea I've ever heard. I'd hope it'll be affordable of course. RM 50?

Yong P F, Petaling Jaya:
If there is a bullet train that can take me to Singapore in 90 minutes safely, count me as a regular. I travel almost on a monthly basis to Singapore as flying is such a hassle now that KLIA is 50 minutes away. Taking a bus is such a pain as it takes forever! albeit it is really cost effective. Taking a train from Sentral would be ideal. Round trip, I would pay RM400 thereabouts

alfred, singapore:
Good, best of luck, start quickly,

Kah Wai, Kuala Lumpur:
Sure, I would prefer to take the bullet train to Singapore than using my own transport. Even for the start the ticket could be expensive but I believe in a long run it would be cheaper as more and more people will take up the bullet train for a ride to Singapore and vice versa. I also believe it will boost both countries Malaysia and Singapore's tourism industry.

Helen, Cyberjaya:
I would be very willing to pay to go to Singapore. I think RM30 one-way would be very reasonable. I think its a great idea and a wonderful solution!

Colsan - Malacca:
Good, I love it.

I definitely take this kind of opportunity because it can save time and cost compared traveling by cars and buses.I hope the price will be reasonable to everyone.

I think Malaysians still have a long way to go. From the comments, I think few understand what a bullet train is. RM30 for a one-way ride? The company running it will be making a loss. I think this is a great idea. fair fare? About RM100 one-day, thereabouts.

Khairul Nazri, Klang:
It's ok we should have such idea but do we still have to give up our sand and airspace?

Sylvester, Johor Bahru:
with this bullet train service, we can stay in KL and travel to work in Singapore everyday. It will also boost the economy of both KL and Singapore as citizens can travel more often between both points without the headache of the never-ending traffic jam at the causeway.

KrishnaKumar, Johore:
Extremely very interesting news! this is what most Malaysians are waiting for. As the price of petrol increasing tremendously i think it will be for the best that we have this kind of service where it's cheap ,convenient & realible. RM100 one-way is most appropriate.

Kelvin, Klang:
Great, i will definitely use it. A fair fare will be between RM150 - RM250 per trip.

Theresa, Kuala Lumpur:
RM100 one way?

He Man:
Currently air ticket from KL to S'pore would cost us around RM 350 to RM 400, I would expect the ticket price will be around RM 100 and below considering AirAsia from KL to Alor setar would cost us much lower.

John Martin:
This is a great move! The integration of Singapore and KL is a great idea. We need FDI and investments from Singapore entrepreneurs and investors to liven up our economy.

jeff cyberjaya :
Don't be excited, Wait for Singapore Goverment reply on what they need as trade-off. Look at KTM JB to Tanjung Pagar service.If we have G to G relation like British and France, It will be a great system like Eurostar.

Jaya,Shah Alam:
Such a good idea! it will be a success if fare is reasonable!!!

Regu, KL:
Guys, let's be realistic here. YTL is not going to spend 8 bil and price it at RM 60-100. The 28 minute ride to KLIA is RM 35. The fare would be nothing less than RM200 one way, or it would not make economic sense.

Moaz Yusuf, KL:
Japan and continental Europe have led the way for years in the development of High-Speed Rail networks. I am glad that YTL is looking at this project. Perhaps it will spur the government to look more closely at rail expansion. However, right now I can only see this project going as far as KL-JB.

Sham, Kuala Lumpur:
Why not? I half suspect that the charge would RM90 and above. What is in doubt, whether both countries have enough political will to do it given that this "alternative" would cannibalize the KUL-SGP route shared by both MAS and SIA.

Not more than RM250 roundtrip

Jeff Chen:
With High Speeed Train to SG, I believe KTM can focus on regional and overnight train and freight services. Consumers will have a choice whether to go for high speed or low speed which more affordable.

SY, Malacca:
Excellent! No traffic jams.

Iqbal, Tokyo:
Great! I will use the service. I do not like driving and I prefer the comfort of trains as opposed to an airplance. This project can be extended to the northern part of Semenanjung, up until Bukit Kayu Hitam so people from Singapore can reach Thailand in say, just less than 3 hours. FYI, taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka (a 500 km or so trip takes around a bit more than 2 hours) costs around 10,000 yen (around RM 300). So for a trip to Singapore I will be willing to pay RM70 one way.

Good idea, but can it be sustainable and profitable base on our small population and low per capita income as compared to countries that have bullet train? RM8b is a huge sum. Why not just convert the present loss making KTM line.

Family Hutter, Nigeria:
Would definitely use it. We enjoy travelling and usually invite other family members to join us. Fare?? About RM150.00 return trip.

Zulkeflli Zakaria:
I like it very much. I think the fare should be less than RM100.00 per journey. Thank you.

Gopal-Perth Australia:
The idea and concept are good. Hopefully,besides stopping at JB, Malacca will also be considered. Having said that,the points made by Martin (foreigner working in Singapore must be very seriously considered. He has made some very valid and conscious points. Hopefully,Besides stopping at JB Malacca,will also considered.

Carl Lim Hing Seng , Johore Bahru:
I would say, without research on the other nearer countries' similar train costs,that it should probably be between RM60 to RM80 and at maximum RM100

Peter Lim, Dunedin, NZ:
I think this new High Speed Express Train between KL to Singapore will help to reduce the use of cars, travelling on flight, buses it will then make your daily travel trip so that it will save time on accomadation having to stay. It will be fast so that commuters who go to work, holiday can travel anytime or daily at wherever they need to. This High Speed Express train will the best for the future.

C.Karuna, Japan:
The long waited excellent idea going to be realized soon! The fare should be less than that being charged using airplanes.

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