Rethink the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore “Bullet Train” Project

The public has been made aware that the “highly anticipated” Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Project has been approved off and construction is expected to commence in 2016. To many people, constructing the HSR in Malaysia would symbolise that we are on par with tech-giants such as Japan and will validate our countries’ technological advancement. It comes as no surprise to us then that our government and lawmakers are enthusiastically supporting this project. According to a news feature, the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR Project is said to be South-East Asia’s most ambitious infrastructure project and they have predicted that there will be an increase in the population of Gerbang Nusajaya and steady growth of the Iskandar Malaysia economic corridor.

However, in spite of this, CAP is against this mammoth tech project. We believe that the price of constructing the HSR is too high (RM40 billion) for our country to handle at this point in time.

What’s more, when we observe the opinions of naysayer of HSR projects in other countries, there are many other possible negative factors, besides the high cost of construction, that come to light. The following are examples of possible negative impacts of India’s Diamond Quadrilateral HSR Project and the negative impacts already apparent from China’s current HSR System:

Possible Negative Impacts of India’s Diamond Quadrilateral HSR Project

· Vast land acquisition for construction of HSR

· Resettlement of residents in the area

· Projects will take many years to complete

· High cost of such a large scale projects

· HSR in many countries are not profitable

· The countries’ overall public transport system that is grossly lacking will not be able to support the HSR

Negative Impacts Already Apparent in China’s HSR System

· Traffic is low

· High construction cost. An Example is the Wuhan-Guangzhou corridor which cost around $19.4billion

· Railway system is $318billion in debt and has an annual loss of around $1.46billion

· Forced to slash tariffs to a fraction during the holidays due to low passenger uptake

We should also consider that, despite the fanfare, we do not actually know much about the Kuala Lumpur – Singapore HSR Project. Simply put, we know that it is a joint project between Malaysia and Singapore that is supposed to cut the time it takes to go to and fro Singapore to approximately 90 minutes but is going to take a lot of money and time to complete. There are still many details that have not been made known to the public and are being labelled as “complex issues that both sides are working on” and that they “have to be jointly agreed upon”. Our knowledge of this project is superficial at best.

As such, CAP would like to call on the government to rethink the Kuala Lumpur – Singapore HSR project. Instead of constructing the HSR, those funds should be used to improve the transport we already have such as our railway system, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTM) and public transportation in all the states in Malaysia.

Letter to the Press, 8 May 2015