Ah, railway transport. Ever since the ambitious Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail (HSR) project was brought up in 2013, it has been a hot topic of discussion and debate on both sides of the Causeway. It is said to be a “game changer” for both countries, which rely heavily on trade and investments with each other, along with a history and ties that run deep.
The HSR route will span 350km from Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur to Jurong East in Singapore. It will comprise eight stations: Iskandar Puteri, Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh, Seremban, and Putrajaya, and the two terminals in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
One of the major selling points of the high speed rail is, of course, improved transportation and connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. The proposed HSR project is said to cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to a mere 90 minutes. Compared to more than four hours by car, and one hour by plane (which does not include check-in and boarding time), it will definitely be the fastest way to travel between Malaysia and Singapore. It not only offers travellers a faster mode of transportation, but an alternate one as well – one which is newer, safer, and more comfortable.
Besides slashing travel time, the HSR is also expected to have a positive effect on the environment. As more and more people use the HSR to travel between cities, there will be less traffic congestion on the highways, especially during weekends and festive seasons. This will result in less pollution and reduce the number of traffic accidents on the road.
As with the LRT, MRT and KTM lines in Klang Valley, the HSR project is expected to bring enhanced stimulus and growth to areas along the track, especially cities where the stations are located. The agriculture and rural areas surrounding Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri would benefit greatly from the project, as it could be redeveloped to provide mass housing, commercial, manufacturing and services industries. It will also improve existing businesses for hospitality, F&B, retail, entertainment, and many other related industries.
For Singapore, the HSR could provide higher visitor arrivals and offer Singapore-based firms lower operating costs when they set up bases in Malaysia along the HSR route. Retirees from the city state will also have extra options to retire and enjoy their golden years in Malaysian towns along the HSR, where properties are cheap and cost of living is low, giving them bang for their (pension) buck.
Despite some disputes between both governments in the early stages, following a memorandum of understanding in July 2016 and the signing of the bilateral agreement for the high speed rail in December the same year, sentiment has mostly been positive for the HSR project. The project will definitely improve bilateral relations between the two nations, as both sides stand to gain from investments, higher visitor arrivals, and increased job opportunities during and after construction of the rail.
There are sure to be detractors who are quick to point out that the cost to carry out such a project would be colossal, and they’d be right. There are also concerns about increased funding required, as many costs would be involved in such an ambitious project spanning over a decade, many states and two countries. Among the concerns raised are land acquisition, construction costs, materials, manpower, and time needed to complete the project.
On the flip side of less traffic congestion, one of the issues is the damage to environment that construction of the HSR route will bring about. In order to build the HSR route, construction will likely have to cut through jungles, forests and undeveloped land, which will not only destroy animal habitats, but also have a negative impact on the environment.
A one-way ticket between the two cities is expected to cost around S$60-65 (about RM180-195), which is about three times the price of a trip by bus, and almost the same as budget air travel. It may be the best option for those who occasionally have to travel, but for frequent travellers, it may cost more to take the HSR than driving or taking the bus in the long run. With high car ownership – especially among Malaysians – people may prefer the freedom offered by personal vehicles instead of regularly going to and fro by train.
What are your thoughts on the HSR project? From the looks of the pros and cons above, there seems to be more positive aspects to the project compared to negative ones. However, nobody can predict what will happen in the coming years, so we’ll look forward to more updates and reports of project in the next few years. Regardless of whether its yay or nay, let us hear your say!