Japan is reportedly pulling out all the stops to land the lucrative Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) deal, and is now using diplomatic muscle to ensure it has a seat at the table.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the recent lapse in the Bandar Malaysia deal involving a consortium of China and Malaysia based companies has now galvanised Japan’s efforts to pitch for the HSR project, which is estimated to cost beyond RM60 billion.
The report stated that Japan’s Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii is said to have made a call to three Malaysian ministers involved in the HSR project prior to his meeting his Singaporean counterpart last week.
“We will push for a specific proposal involving financing, talent development and collaboration with local companies,” Ishii told Malaysian reporters while he was in Kuala Lumpur during a high-speed rail symposium.
The Nikkei Asian Review said that both the Japanese public and private sectors would be collaborating in the pitch for the 350km HSR line that will run from Bandar Malaysia at the heart of KL to the centre of Singapore.
Malaysia, on our part, is seriously looking into possible Japanese involvement in the project as the country is already globally renowned for its high speed rail infrastructure – notably Japan’s Shinkansen trains.
Among the main contenders for the KL-Singapore HSR line is China. While China boasts experience in operating the world’s largest high-speed rail network, Japan’s system is renowned for its reliability and quality.
Other parties that have expressed interest in the HSR project include France and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry announced last week that it had called off the deal to sell 60% equity stake in Bandar Malaysia to a consortium comprising China Railway Engineering Corp (M) Sdn Bhd and local partner Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd.
The deal, estimated to be worth RM7.41 billion, was initially inked in December 2015. Details remain sketchy about the key reasons leading to the termination of the deal.
Attempts by local press to clarify the matter have been unsuccessful and when a local daily reached out to the Chinese Embassy in KL, it said that it too was “trying to understand the situation further” and declined to comment beyond that.