KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Plans for a rail connection between Malaysia’s capital and the city-state of Singapore can still proceed without Putrajaya paying a penalty for calling off the High Speed Rail (HSR) project.
Consultants familiar with the project also said the alternative plan, to upgrade the existing rail network, would shave the cost by roughly RM50 billion, The Star’s business section reported today.
According to the consultants who have also briefed the Council of Eminent Persons — a government advisory panel led by former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin — upgrading works should not cost more than RM20 billion.
In contrast, the shelved HSR was estimated to cost between RM60 billion and RM70 billion, and that without including the potential cost from acquiring land to build new rail lines that can accommodate high-speed locomotives and carriages.
“Cost will be shaved by more than RM50 billion, which is 70 per cent lower compared with (building) the HSR. This does not include land acquisition cost and possible cost overruns incurred by the HSR project.
“The upgrading of the existing railway tracks would involve minimal land acquisition, minimal disruption to existing system and complement the entire national railway network.
“It would not lead to a duplication of railway lines,” one of the unnamed consultants was quoted saying.
The only downside is that the journey between both cities would take 40 minutes longer. On the HSR, travel time would take 90 minutes, while on the alternative rail, it is 130 minutes.
This is because the alternative rail locomotives travel at an average speed of 200km/hour or about 120km/hour slower than an HSR train.
Sources also pointed that upgrading existing rail network was a cheaper alternative than to extend the Express Rail Link (ERL) from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Singapore, which could incur up to RM30 billion for such extension works.
“The suggested ERL extension plan would involve a completely new alignment from KLIA and there is not much of a difference in traveling time compared with the plan to upgrade the existing infrastructure,” a source was quoted as saying.