Three bid for high-speed train project

NST, February 21, 2013

The much anticipated high-speed rail (HSR) project has attracted three proposals, including one from UEM Group Bhd-Ara Group, which are seen as the early favourite.

Business Times reported in 2011 that Ara Group, where Tan Sri Ravindran Menon of Subang Skypark is one of the shareholders, has teamed up with state-owned UEM Group to vie for the HSR project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

It is understood that the consortium plan to lay railway lines parallel to the North-South Expressway (NSE) from Kuala Lumpur, Seremban and Malacca to Johor Baru, before connecting to Singapore.

The other two proposals are from infrastructure conglomerate YTL Corp Bhd, and the China Infraglobe-Global Rail Sdn Bhd consortium.

YTL, operator of the KLIA Express, first mooted the idea to build a high-speed rail in the late 1990s and again in 2006.

The idea was shelved repeatedly largely because of cost concerns, estimated at RM8 billion.

Hopes for the project were revived in 2010 when it was tapped as a potential key project under an economic transformation drive launched by Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday agreed to build the HSR link between the two countries, with a target completion date of 2020.

The link will cut travel time to 90 minutes between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. At present, it takes up to eight hours by train between the two cities; around five hours by bus and car; and 45 minutes by flight.

China Infraglobe-Global Rail last made a submission for the HSR job in 2009.

Global Rail group managing director Fan Boon Heng said that the consortium was keen to participate in the HSR project and was mulling submitting a fresh proposal to the government.