KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — Japanese passenger railway firms have decided to opt out of participating in the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project, ahead of the deadline for the request of information (RFI) next week.
Japan-based news outlet Kyodo News reported that the Japanese firms, including the East Japan Railway Co, had initially intended to utilise the Shinkansen bullet train system for the 350km rail project, but later decided against it.
Citing government and company sources, the report said it would be too risky for the firms to do so without financial assistance from the Malaysian government.
The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project is expected to cost RM100 billion, but the federal government intends to promote it through private financing rather than by government spending or extending debt guarantees.
The report added that the latest development would see rival Chinese railway companies in possibly securing the project. This follows the increased presence of China’s infrastructure building in East Asia after they completed a high-speed railway in 2023 in Indonesia and are currently building another in Thailand.
While Japanese firms are dropping out Kyodo News said several local companies are planning to jointly collaborate with Chinese and European firms to make bids.
The deadline for the RFI for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project, which started soliciting bids in July last year, is on Monday.
After the RFI deadline, the government is expected to shortlist candidates within several months and start full-fledged negotiations with the Singapore government later this year at the earliest.
In March last year, the federal government, said that it is open to reviving the Kuala Lunpur-Singapore HSR project, but will not fund the 350km-long rail project.
In July of the same year, it was reported that the Kuala Lunpur-Singapore HSR’s project implementation would be privately funded by MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd.
Last December, Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, who is also the incoming Yang di-Pertuan Agong, called for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project to be revived and realigned to run through Forest City, a massive luxury development project in Johor that had targeted nationals from China.
Malaysia and Singapore first signed an agreement for the HSR project in 2016 that would see trains running at speeds more than 300km/h, enabling travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore within 90 minutes.
The project was scheduled to be completed in 2026, and expected to provide three main services: direct travel between Malaysia and Singapore within 90 minutes; domestic service in Malaysia; and shuttle service from Iskandar Puteri in Johor to Singapore.
However, the project was then suspended by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in September 2018 but revived just three months later with adjustments to costs.
Both Malaysia and Singapore then announced the termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project on January 1, 2021, as the two countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia before the project agreement expired on December 31, 2020.
Malaysia paid S$102.8 million (RM320.27 million) in compensation to Singapore for development costs incurred.