KUALA LUMPUR (July 11): MyHSR Corporation Sdn Bhd (MyHSR Corp) is seeking concept proposals from local and international firms and consortia to develop and operate the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (KL-SG HSR) project via a public-private partnership model.

In a statement on Tuesday (July 11), MyHSR Corp said it is embarking on a full-fledged request for information (RFI) that will be opened to all these three parties to submit their concept proposals.

The RFI exercise marks the government’s initiative to reactivate the KL-SG HSR project via new funding mechanisms and implementation models in efforts to further improve the rail transport infrastructure and to invigorate the national economy, MyHSR said.

The exercise will allow the Malaysian government to assess the industry’s interest and ability to fully fund the project while evaluating their capabilities in developing this major infrastructure project by looking into areas such as technical specifications, project costing, commercial and business models, as well as consortium and governance framework.

MyHSR Corp chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal encouraged firms and consortia with the relevant experience to participate in the exercise, adding the agency looks forward to receiving strong interest and high-quality proposals that would serve as an important reference for the government’s decision on the best way forward for the project.

“MyHSR Corp remains committed in supporting the government to identify the most effective solution to revive the KL-SG HSR project. Globally, developments of HSR have proven to be growth engines, bringing about catalytic development and growth as well as multiplier effects that benefit all walks of life,” Mohd Nur Ismal added.

Mooted in 2010 as part of the development of Greater KL, Malaysia and Singapore signed a legally binding bilateral agreement in Dec 2016 for the 350km HSR, which was to have seven stations and shorten the travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 times — from a four-hour drive by car. At the time, the railway line was envisioned to be completed in 2026.

But when the Pakatan Harapan coalition took over Putrajaya in 2018, it suspended the HSR project in view of the government’s tight fiscal condition and ballooning national debt. The project was subsequently terminated in January 2021 by then prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as Malaysia and Singapore failed to reach an agreement over several changes the Malaysian government had proposed.

Consequently, Malaysia paid RM320.27 million to Singapore as compensation “for costs incurred for the development of the HSR project, and in relation to the extension of suspension of project”, according to a statement issued by the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department at the time.

In March this year, The Edge Malaysia weekly reported that the federal government had had meetings with five Malaysian companies to gauge their interest in pursuing the HSR, which was said to cost about RM60 billion in 2020. According to the report dated March 27-April 2, the five were: Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary-controlled MMC Corp Bhd; WCT Holdings Bhd, controlled by Tan Sri Desmond Lim Siew Choon; YTL Group; Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun-controlled Berjaya Group; and Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB).

In a follow-up report for the week of May 8-May 14, the weekly wrote that at least two of the five companies were having high-level discussions for a potential partnership with Chinese state-owned enterprises, while one appeared inclined to partner with a Japanese consortium. The remaining two were said to be waiting for the government to reveal more information on the project.

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