High-speed rail terminal site may be named soon

The site of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail (HSR) terminus in Singapore could be announced as early as the first quarter of this year.

According to a statement by the National Development Ministry, the 11th Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia - which met yesterday in Putrajaya - "looks forward to Singapore's announcement of the HSR terminus at the upcoming Leaders' Retreat".

No date for the Leaders' Retreat was given but past retreats have been in February, April and May. So news of where the station will be could be out in the next few weeks or months.

Singapore had shortlisted Tuas West, Jurong East and the city centre as possible sites, but seems most in favour of Jurong East. The Malaysians, however, are said to be rooting for a city location.

Dr George Caldwell, 90, a medical practitioner who studied transport engineering, reckoned a city stop made the most sense: "Everybody wants to get from city centre to city centre. It doesn't make sense to stop in Jurong or Tuas and spend another 40 minutes getting into town."

While high-speed rail systems around the world often link city centres, Singapore is said to baulk at the cost and work involved because of the dense development in the Central Business District and the criss-crossing MRT tunnels and utilities underground.

There are other obstacles that need to be overcome, such as how much each country should pay for the project.

"Several sub-work groups have been tasked to look into the technical intricacies of the rail system that would be adopted, as well as the operating and financing models," said the statement.

Even the number of stations may be a sticking point. Malaysia has announced seven stops, namely Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya. But The Straits Times understands there are concerns that Singapore might end up subsidising these stations.

Meanwhile, the joint ministerial committee said the quota for cross-border bus services has been raised from the current 16 to 20. Both sides are also reviewing new landing points to enhance the cross-border bus network.

On the MRT extension to Johor Baru, the second phase of a joint engineering study "will begin after the terminus location in JB has been determined". There will also be automated clearance for both rider and pillion at all motorcycle counters at the Singapore checkpoints by the end of next year.

This article was first published on February 7, 2015.
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