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WE have finally heard some of the details behind a High-Speed Rail (HSR) link plan that will connect Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in just 90 minutes. Both Malaysia and Singapore have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the project, said to be the firmest commitment yet by the two governments to build the rail link after their leaders supported the idea three years ago.
The 350km-long HSR link is said to be Southeast Asia’s first and it will use super-fast trains that run at operating speeds of 320kph, with a design speed of 350kph. It is touted as a potential game-changer that can revitalise the economic landscape and the way of life of those who live along the corridor. The existing train service rumbles leisurely to and from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in six to seven hours.
But, those who like train travel do not mind the fairly long journey because the ride comes with beautiful scenery and decent food and drinks at the dining coach. There are three modes of transport that an individual can take from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore — by air, road and train. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current choo-choo service is popular among tourists as it is probably the safest way to travel to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur.
The train snakes through oil palm plantations and secondary jungles towards Singapore, before inching its way over the 1923-built Causeway across the Straits of Johor into the island republic. There is a romance to train travel for those who seek it. Even so, the HSR link is an exciting prospect for those who like travelling by train and want to get to their destinations quickly. If everything goes according to plan, the first train should start running between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore around 2026.
This might seem like a long wait, but it is actually an ambitious timetable, because mass rapid transit lines in Singapore took between 12 and 15 years from inception to service. It is worth restating the benefits that would accrue from this project. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, spoke about the impact of the project on the economies of Malaysia and Singapore.
The creation of 30,000 jobs through the implementation of the venture is among its likely advantages. And, big changes await towns along the route, such as Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Johor Baru, as the link is predicted to give new impetus to economic development. It will also relieve pressure on the highways, which pushes up maintenance costs, and also ease traffic flow during rush hour and festive seasons.
More significantly, the architects of this dream visualise an exciting future for Malaysia and Singapore. Since the project hopes to bring the two countries together both in terms of people-to-people relationship and the creation of economic opportunities, it will certainly change the way citizens of both places view each other.
The multiple agencies involved in the HSR enterprise need to have a well-coordinated plan to make sure the deadline is met and that the public has a dependable, convenient and affordable service.
This article first appeared on www.nst.com.my
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