Reports in the media have suggested that plans for a multi-billion ringgit high-speed rail service from Singapore to KL are being resurrected.
Details are sketchy, but The Star reports that Land and Public Transport Commission (Spad) issued a tender for a study in December, and an announcement about the the appointment of a consultant is expected soon.
An Edge report indicates that Spad’s commercial feasibility study could be completed this month and cites sources saying the high-speed rail project could cost less than US$10bn (RM30bn). The entire feasibility study could be completed by the year-end.
Ordinarily I would be all for rail transport, but in this case, we haven’t even finished the double-tracking project from north to south.
Sure, a high-speed rail service, which needs a broader gauge rail track, would not be possible on the present metre gauge used by KTM, which limits speeds to 130km per hour. (But hey, even that would be a huge improvement from the old trains.)
But if we introduce a high-speed rail service in a few years, how are we going to recoup the investment in the double-tracking? Won’t it take a lot longer to recoup the investment?
Also, given the track record of the BN government, how sure are we there will be an open tender for a contractor with a proven track record at the most attractive terms – without rent-seeking by crony companies or others merely hitching on for a (high-speed) ride?
And why are Penang and other cities in the north and the east coast being left out?
What about other priorities like improving transport, especially rail services in Sabah and Sarawak? Are we forgetting the huge urban-rural income disparity?