Hong Kong rail operator eyes multibillion dollar link connecting Malaysia, Singapore

Should the project materialise, it would be MRT Corp's first investment under China's "One Belt One Road" (OBOR) plan.

SBS Transit to open Punggol Point LRT Station on Dec 29
Picture for representation Reuters

As a part of China's trade and commerce strategy, Hong Kong's rail operator is bidding for a multibillion-dollar rail line connecting Malaysia and Singapore. The bid will see the MTR Corporation joining hands with a state-owned mainland Chinese rail operator, reported South China Morning Post.

MTR Corporation chairman, Frederick Ma Si-Hang, told the newspaper that the company was eyeing a partnership with China Railway Corporation to build the 350 km high-speed link between the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.

Should the project materialise, it would be MRT Corp's first investment under China's "One Belt One Road" (OBOR) plan. Frederick said the corporation was looking to expand into new markets under the government initiative.

"But we are careful in considering factors like the financial viability of projects and the risks," said Frederick, as reported.

The MTR Corp head was part of the delegation from Hong Kong, which was led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying at the OBOR forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.The forum welcomed 1,200 delegates from over 100 countries on Sunday and Monday.

Frederick said MTR Corp and China Railway Corp signed a memorandum of understanding for the initiative last December, which left room for future partnerships in more than 60 countries along the plan's two trade corridor. The corridors include the old Silk Road land route which leads to the north and the maritime Silk Road to the south. He said the company would take a managerial role in future projects, which involves hefty capital investments.

"We have gone global earlier than other companies and gained some overseas experience, largely in developed countries," he said.

Frederick also said a stringent set of internal requirements on risks and returns were already in place and were not easily met especially while discussing investments. However, the densely populated markets around the corridors promised demand for mass transit only if political, financing and corruption risks were mitigated.

The tender for the KL-Singapore HSR project was due at the end of 2016, with a completion date set in 2026.