Malaysia, Singapore launch search for high-speed rail development partner

Singapore and Malaysia yesterday launched the process to choose an expert development partner for one of Asia’s most significant cross-border transport schemes: the new high-speed railway between Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore.

The countries’ bilateral planning team needs a "joint development partner" to advise on the project, which will see six new stations built along the railway’s route, as well as two new termini, one each in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which are 309km apart as the crow flies.

Firms have until "12:00pm sharp" on 5 September, Singapore time, to apply to participate in the tender.

Rail firms in China, Japan, Europe and the US are certain to be drawn to the ambitious scheme that will see trains, running at more than 300km/h, cut the tortuous journey between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore from up to six hours now to just 90 minutes when the line opens – it is hoped – in 2026.

The wording of the invitation, released by the bilateral delivery agency, casts the net wide.

Wanted are firms experienced in advising on large public-private partnership (PPP) schemes, including high-speed railways, or firms who have provided project management, technical, commercial or legal advisory services on either high speed or conventional rail projects of 200km or more in length.

This catch-all phrasing will lure European or American engineering heavyweights with experience in PPP schemes, but also state-owned firms from China, a country that leads the world in high-speed track laying and operation, and Japanese firms, who are experienced under Japan’s private-sector model.

Firms already working on the scheme for either country can apply to take part in bidding if they get approval from their clients – a clause that seems intended for US-based CH2M, which landed a technical advisory role for the Malaysian side at the end of July.

CH2M’s role is certain to be influential, since the majority of the railway’s length will be on Malaysian soil – Singapore being a tiny territory by comparison.

But another entity to watch will be state-owned China Railway Group (CREC), the mega corporation that earlier this year committed to building a $2bn regional headquarters complex in Bandar Malaysia, the new 196-hectare district of Kuala Lumpur, masterplanned by Broadway Malyan, that will accommodate the Malaysian terminus of the high-speed railway (depicted above).

More information on the tender process is available here.

Image: Artist’s render of Bandar Malaysia, the new 196-hectare district of Kuala Lumpur, masterplanned by Broadway Malyan, that will be the Malaysian terminus of the new rail route (Broadway Malyan)

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