Wednesday, November 09, 2011

KL-Singapore high-speed rail project on track

By Sharen Kaur and Zuraimi Abdullah

It is believed that up-and-coming rail tycoon Tan Sri Ravindran Menon has teamed up with UEM Group to vie for the project.

Kuala Lumpur: The high-speed rail system linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore could take shape by next year, with three groups leading the early race to win the multi-billion ringgit job, people familiar with the plan said.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is expected to start a feasibility study on the project early next year.

The commission had already completed a pre-feasibility study, SPAD chief development officer Azmi Abdul Aziz told Business Times.

SPAD will undertake a feasibility study next, which should take six to 12 months to complete, Azmi added.

If feasible, the project is estimated to cost as much as RM12 billion, with the interested parties offering either European or Chinese technologies.

It is believed that up-and-coming rail tycoon Tan Sri Ravindran Menon has teamed up with UEM Group to vie for the project.

Ravindran controls Skypark Terminal, which recently received an offer from the government to undertake a RM1.5 billion rail project.

The project is to connect the Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) station in Subang Jaya, Selangor, to the Skypark Terminal at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport.

Business Times understands that the Ravindran-UEM venture made a presentation to the government early this year, specifically on the more than 300km high speed rail line.

Sources said they planned to lay railway lines parallel to the North-South Expressway from Kuala Lumpur, Seremban and Malacca to Johor Baru, before connecting to Singapore.

Others said to be in the running for the job are China Infraglobe Consortium-Global Rail Sdn Bhd and YTL Corp Bhd.

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

To date, it has yet to make a revised proposal to the government, a company official said.

YTL group managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping, who is in New York, declined to comment when asked if the company had made a fresh submission.

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 project was put on hold in April 2008 due to high cost, which was estimated at RM8 billion.

In the middle of 2009, YTL expressed hope that the government would relook at the proposal.

It said it would build the rail line on the coastline of Peninsular Malaysia, rather than that mooted in an earlier proposal of building on the existing track.

Last year, the government said it would revive the project.

It was highligted as a high impact project in the government's Economic Transformation Programme roadmap in a bid to increase economic activities.

Yesterday, the government reiterated that it may go ahead with the project.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said it would wait for feedback from its Singaporean counterparts as the track would go into its land.

Germany's Siemens had previously offered its solutions to the project.

It proposed the use of its Velaro trains, which have a top speed of 350kph.