THE decision on the high-speed rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca, and Johor to Singapore has been deferred until the end of the year. This will be the last extension for Malaysia and Singapore to finalise technicalities before the project launch.
The HSR system is not only a faster and more convenient mode of medium and long-distance travel but a catalyst for urban development and trade growth, as seen in several countries.
The construction of the South Europe Atlantic HSR that began in 2012 and completed in 2017 has created 14,000 jobs, generated €1.6 billion (RM7.6 billion) in production, with added value of €755 million in the three regions.
After the 2001 installation of the HSR line connecting Cologne and Frankfurt, the GDP of the region increased 8.5% faster than before the infrastructure was built. Provinces in China with HSR have observed 25% more revenues than provinces without HSR.
Due to the immediate and long-term benefits, the United Kingdom has just launched its second HSR project known as HS2, connecting London to West Midlands, the largest infrastructure project in Europe.
In Southeast Asia, the two countries currently developing HSR are Thailand and Indonesia.
Thailand’s HSR will link three of their airports, serves as the core infrastructure development for its Eastern Economic Corridor, and an initiative aims to lift the country out of the middle-income trap.
Indonesia’s HSR that connects Bandung and Jakarta is estimated to provide 40,000 jobs and anticipated to begin operation in 2021.
These two immediate neighbours of Malaysia are now constructing the most advanced rail system despite having lower GDP per capita. Malaysia recorded US$10,254 GDP per capita in 2017, higher than Thailand (US$6,578) and Indonesia (US$3,893). Should we be surprised if Thailand and Indonesia overtake Malaysia in the next one or two decades?
The proposed HSR to connect the five states in Malaysia to Singapore has a huge role to play in the country’s progress. Not only will it serve the southern states but it will also be the first phase of a larger pan-Asian HSR network on the peninsula, as envisioned by the developers of the Kunming-Singapore rail line.
To see the HSR as a mere transport mode is to underplay its potential as a catalyst for the country and region’s growth. – June 3, 2020.
*Joshua Woo reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.