Lee, Najib to attend signing of high speed rail line project in Kuala Lumpur

High speed rail line will 'boost connectivity, strengthen economic ties and enhance people-to-people linkages '.

Singapore and Malaysia closer to signing $16 bln high speed rail link deal
An employee works on a final assembly line for CRH380B, a high speed train model, at China CNR's Tangshan Railway Vehicle's factory in Tangshan, Hebei province, February 11, 2015. Reuters

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will attend the signing of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high speed rail link project in the Malaysian capital on Tuesday.

Lee is in Malaysia to attend the annual Malaysia-Singapore Leaders' Retreat with Prime Minister Najib Razak. The prime minister's office said the inking of the multi-billion dollar deal is the culmination of discussions between the two countries that started in 2013.

Singapore has said the 350km high-speed rail line between the city state and the Malaysian capital will be a game changer. "It also demonstrates the two governments' commitment to the project, which will boost connectivity, strengthen economic ties and enhance people-to-people linkages when completed," the office said, according to the Straits Times.

A high level delegation of ministers and senior government officials is accompanying Lee. Singapore's Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan will sign the agreement along with his Malaysian counterpart Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

Malaysia and Singapore had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in July in the presence of Najib and Lee. The 350-km high speed rail link will reduce the travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to around 90 minutes. The cost of the mega project, which will also connect six Malaysian cities with Singapore, is estimated to be US$16 billion.

MyHSR, the company executing of the high speed rail line project, said the bids will be evaluated at the end of 2018. The project is expected to be completed by 2025 and commercial services would start in 2026. The two terminal stations on the line will be Jurong East in Singapore and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. As many as six Malaysian cities will also be linked into the project, making it a step towards broader economic integration in the region.

Meanwhile, there has been speculation over how will win the contract for the construction. With China and Japan competing closely for winning the contract, the Malaysian government this week the complicated and extensive project will be executed under a 'robust governance structure'.

Japan has openly expressed interest in winning the contract while companies from China and South Korea are also in the fray. However, observers say China has an edge over the others in the bid to win the project. China has already bagged high-profile infrastructure projects in Malaysia in recent times, including the East Coast Rail Link, a 620km line costing RM55 billion.