Hong Kong’s MTR Corp eyes KL-Singapore high-speed rail


PETALING JAYA: Hong Kong’s rail operator MTR Corporation is expected to propel a new bid from China for the lucrative Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project.

Its chairman, Frederick Ma Si-hang, was quoted by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today as saying that it plans to collaborate with China Railway Corp (CRC) to bid for the project, which is estimated to cost up to RM43 billion.

He said he had learned from Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai at China’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing yesterday that the tender deadline for the project is at the end of the year.

Ma said MTR and CRC, the national railway operator of China, signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the “One Belt, One Road” (Obor) initiative last December.

If they win the tender, this will be MTR’s first investment under Obor, he added.

“We want to expand into new markets under the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative,” he was quoted as saying. “But we are careful in considering factors such as financial viability of projects and risks.”

MTR operates Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway and trains in other major cities, including Beijing, London, Australia and Sweden.

The company is also a prominent property developer in Hong Kong, the SCMP report said.

The HSR project is expected to be ready by 2026. It features a 350km railway system with a 90-minute travel time between KL and Singapore.

The brand-new line with dedicated tracks would allow trains to travel at 270kph.

It has been reported that Japan is also increasing its push to get the tender.

The Nikkei Asian Review has reported that the recent collapse of the development deal over Bandar Malaysia — where the northern terminus of the HSR is planned to be built — may help the Japanese government, which is stepping up its efforts to win the tender.

Backed by the proven Shinkansen HSR system, the Japanese bid will see both the public and private sectors coming together.

“We will push for a specific proposal involving financing, talent development and collaboration with local companies,” Keichi Ishii, Japan’s Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was quoted as saying by the daily.

On May 3, TRX City Sdn Bhd, which comes under the finance ministry, announced that the share sale agreement regarding the sale of 60% of the issued and paid-up capital of Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd had lapsed.

It said this was due to the failure of the purchasing parties — Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd and China Railway Engineering Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd — to fulfil payment obligations.

The urban development project is planned on the site of the old Sungai Besi Airport (Simpang Air Force Base) in Kuala Lumpur, which is being used by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.