High Speed Rail – overall summary of what’s up.

MyHSR is the new company tasked with Malaysia’s High Speed Rail (HSR). As everyone noted, the timeline of 2020 is most probably off because even the cost sharing between both countries have yet to be agreed, at least based on what’s reported thus far. The new CEO beginning Sept 1 2015 is Mohd Nur Ismail Mohamed Kamal, formerly CEO of Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD, Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat). Below is a summary of what he said in an interview on the HSR, a 330km project which will allow breakfast in KL, lunch in Singapore followed by a dinner in KL, all within the same day. (Yes, I would try this with my Singaporean friends even if it would cost me a bomb and write about it)
Difference of MyHSR and SPAD? MyHSR is the project owner and developer of the HSR while SPAD will remain as policymaker and regulator and would be focussed on the engagement with Singapore. I think what this meant is that high level strategy is by SPAD while the implementation would be all under MyHSR.
Five important elements by MyHSR to keep HSR on track:
1. G-to-G (government- to-government) support for SPAD in the bilateral discussions with Singapore. This helps to finalise the technical, commercial and bilateral agreement. (Seriously, more transparency and perhaps timeline would be appreciated by all parties instead of an announcement every few months like today) 
2. Finalise the station and the alignment. This include a detailed environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment, soil investigation, and to perform land acquisition. (Again, more transparency and continuous update) 
3. Preparation for tender process though this would depend on final operating structure to be agreed by both the governments of Malaysia and Singapore. (Seriously, this may be hardest because it may involve choosing the systems from the European, China, Japan or South Korea. My wish? An Asian company who’s willing to hire lots of locals and lowest cost of financing please) 
4. Maximise benefits of HSR in terms of socioeconomic development opportunities along all the corridors where the stations are located. I think this is vital which if not meant the only beneficiary is KL and Singapore, hardly worth pursuing since both are already pretty connected currently. 
5. Engaging the public based on international best practices so that understand the benefits and convince them that this an economic development project and not just a transport project. I personally think this is not really necessary if the 4 steps above are done correctly. I am not that confident of the success of this engagement and not really looking forward too based on the current ‘everything negative’ mindset prevailing. 
The CEO revealed this: There are still ongoing intense negotiations with Singapore before both parties can agree on certain aspects of HSR operations in the future. These include safety, security, customs, immigration, the alignment, stations, how do we join (the alignment) together as well as if there’s any express or transit services, the control aspect of it, and guarding against security breaches. This is the reason why I think milestones should be transparently communicated especially on the Malaysian side since I am a Malaysian. 
Oh yeah, currently these have been agreed. CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex) is going to be a co-location. Same building, two nations. There would also be immigration counters in Kuala Lumpur, Nusajaya and Singapore.
Following are the few terminus mentioned. Bandar Malaysia, stations in Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya. Plans include developing the whole zones around the station and even up to 5km radius from the station. MyHSR may or may not be developing them but the framework would be put in place so that incentives can be put in to encourage the development from the private sector.
The station is not the end. It’s the beginning of a development of the area surrounding the stations to benefit the state which it is in too. MyHSR will have to put in policies to encourage certain types of investments and human capital attractions to develop certain types of industries. He specifically mentioned that the Korean’s HSR’s plans included even the improvement of existing industries in the towns where these stations are located.
Tender for HSR is expected to begin with the pre-qualifications in middle of 2016. This timeline has to be in line with the bilateral agreement. The actual tender process is not yet finalised but expected to be end of 2016. MyHSR would be the ‘resident expert’ for the HSR.
The decision is quite far away. Final project structure is that it may be private initiative, public-private partnership (PPP) or completely Government-owned. It meant that MyHSR would evolve according to the final decision made. I seriously do not think it should be government owned. If this is a profitable project, why is government involved beyond completion of the project? If this is going to be a money losing project, it’s best that the government is not involved.
Well, that’s a lot of information from the new MyHSR CEO. Let’s see if whatever I hoped for in bold above comes true. I think HSR is part of the continuous progress of Malaysia’s economic development and is a necessity rather than a decision of popularity. No matter how much Singapore is looked up to, without being even more integrated into Malaysia, both countries may just be skipped altogether in favour of many other much bigger nations nearby. Instead of competition, I think cooperation is a better bet. Happy anticipating.
written on 27 Sept 2015
Next suggested article: High Speed Rail KL – Singapore, missing the deadline


  1. Hi Charles,
    HSR, wow! This will be a very big project for Malaysia instead of adding another two Tambak Johore, side by side..yeah. I dreamt it a lot more than this HSR. I think this will be a lot more benefit to Johoreans and Singaporeans as well. I can’t imagine the economical value will spill over to Iskandar and the government as a whole. It can bring more taxes, fees and indirect income to local government also. I had a feeling to throw out when I saw the causeway congestion at 7.00 am and 5.00 pm every working day. Do we ever realized how much money value we had lost there? Even the Second Link cannot overcome the situation. Can this HSR solve the problems?
    I strongly urged our government to invest less and get more rather than invest more and get less from this HSR. We also had a public transport problems to invest back home.

    1. Hi IM, I do not believe HSR is the most important infrastructure for Iskandar. HSR’s importance would be more for KL as well as the other stops and of course that includes Iskandar. For Iskandar, my view remains the same; more links are needed. We cannot rely on the current links because they are just insufficient! Like you say, congestion from 7am and 5pm every single working day. That’s pretty crazy right. As for the investment, I prefer to see the announcement before commenting. As you may have noted, there are many options and many countries are extremely interested to be the technology partner and builder for this.

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