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Thursday, October 28, 2010

On the fast track

Several companies made presentations to the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) lab about three months ago on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed train project, industry sources say.

Among them were YTL Corp Bhd and Hartasuma Sdn Bhd, which was said to be partnering a Chinese state-owned firm.

Hartasuma, a Class "A" Bumiputera contractor, is a member of Ara Group, founded by Datuk Aisamar Kadil Mydin Syed Marikiah and Tan Sri Ravindran Menon, director and executive director of Subang SkyPark Sdn Bhd respectively.

Its track record includes repair and overhaul of passenger coaches for KTM Bhd and civil works (Kuala Kubu Baru-Tanjung Malim Halt) for the Rawang-Ipoh electrified double tracks.

Business Times understands that some of the companies have proposed to undertake the high-speed rail project for between RM8 billion and RM14 billion.
A government source said the project could be worth RM10 billion to RM12 billion and that it would take five to eight years to complete as it will cover 300km.

The source said that cost would depend on the type of technology deployed, whether it is magnetic levitation (maglev) or conventional, and how the tracks are aligned.

Maglev will cost more than conventional, but requires less maintenance, is safer and faster. The system also uses more electronics and essentially involves "non-contact electromagnetic levitation".

"If the alignment is built along the coastal road, then it would involve a lot of land acquisition and this would add to the cost," he said.

The source added that the project would depend on a study by the Treasury, the Performance and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and other government agencies.

It is believed that Pemandu, which is leading the NKEA lab, has invited officials from the Ministry of Transport, the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) and City Hall to attend briefings held separately by the companies.

The high-speed train project was mooted by YTL in 2006. It had proposed to undertake the project for RM9 billion, partnering Germany's Siemens, a global expert in high-speed rail technology.

The YTL proposal, however, was shot down because of the high cost involved.

Malaysia is mulling over a high-speed rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore that will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes.

Plans would require the approval of Singapore, which has expressed its interest in the project. However, the government has not given a firm approval, the source said.

By Business Times

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