HSR Update: Who will be “competing” for the HSR Project?

TRANSIT noted this article in the Business Times which updates us on the companies that are looking to get involved in the proposed KL-Singapore high speed rail link.

On the fast track (Business Times)
Sharen Kaur, 2 November 2010

Several companies made presentations to the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) lab about three months ago on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed train project, industry sources say.

Among them were YTL Corp Bhd and Hartasuma Sdn Bhd (4677), which was said to be partnering a Chinese state-owned firm.

Hartasuma, a Class “A” Bumiputera contractor, is a member of Ara Group, founded by Datuk Aisamar Kadil Mydin Syed Marikiah and Tan Sri Ravindran Menon, director and executive director of Subang SkyPark Sdn Bhd respectively.

Its track record includes repair and overhaul of passenger coaches for KTM Bhd and civil works (Kuala Kubu Baru-Tanjung Malim Halt) for the Rawang-Ipoh electrified double tracks.

Business Times understands that some of the companies have proposed to undertake the high-speed rail project for between RM8 billion and RM14 billion.

A government source said the project could be worth RM10 billion to RM12 billion and that it would take five to eight years to complete as it will cover 300km.

The source said that cost would depend on the type of technology deployed, whether it is magnetic levitation (maglev) or conventional, and how the tracks are aligned.

TRANSIT: Honestly, Maglev? Who really thinks that the HSR will be maglev … especially since no country in the world has a commercially operating intercity maglev (of any type)? Show of hands please?

We didn’t think so. So why does (do?) the Malaysian media keep mentioning the possibility of maglev on rail projects?

Maglev will cost more than conventional, but requires less maintenance, is safer and faster. The system also uses more electronics and essentially involves “non-contact electromagnetic levitation”.

“If the alignment is built along the coastal road, then it would involve a lot of land acquisition and this would add to the cost,” he said.

The source added that the project would depend on a study by the Treasury, the Performance and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and other government agencies.

It is believed that Pemandu, which is leading the NKEA lab, has invited officials from the Ministry of Transport, the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) and City Hall to attend briefings held separately by the companies.

The high-speed train project was mooted by YTL in 2006. It had proposed to undertake the project for RM9 billion, partnering Germany’s Siemens, a global expert in high-speed rail technology.

The YTL proposal, however, was shot down because of the high cost involved.

TRANSIT: Right … that was the only reason why the proposal was shot down.

Malaysia is mulling over a high-speed rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore that will cut travel time between the two cities to 90 minutes.

Plans would require the approval of Singapore, which has expressed its interest in the project. However, the government has not given a firm approval, the source said.

TRANSIT Says:

We find this article interesting because it continues that constant effort of the Malaysian media to write PR for Malaysian companies, as well as their constant mention of unattainable public transport technologies for massive mega projects.

Let’s set the record straight. A 90 minutes train trip between KL and Singapore is not going to happen anytime soon. Maglev trains (which could not make the trip in 90 minutes anyways) will not be used on this line.

Does the Malaysian public and the Malaysian media honestly think that the Singapore government, if involved in this project (and why not, the project is a good one overall) will allow the project to be derailed (pardon the pun) by a focus on unattainable technology?

TRANSIT says, be realistic. Yes, HSR is the way forward – but be realistic.

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6 thoughts on “HSR Update: Who will be “competing” for the HSR Project?”

  1. Maglev trains are introduced in my home city Shanghai,China for years as one transportation between Pudong international airport to Long Yang Road MRT station.In the earlier stage,it was just a test line.However,it has been running commercially for several years.The speed(410-430km/h) is still a bit faster than the fastest rolling stock(350-380km/h) in China currently.However,it is the most expensive one.You can refer here:http://www.smtdc.com/en/
    Well,I hope Malaysia could think about deploying a high speed railway service up to 350km-380km/h,cutting the travel time within 50minutes to show the pros against the airlines.

    1. Hi @Saktish

      Yes, the ERL uses “standard” 1435mm gauge. So do both LRT lines.

      We expect that if a high-speed railway between KL and Singapore were to come anywhere close to a realistic 2.5-3 hour trip (not the unrealistic 90 minutes floated in the newspapers) it would have to have at least standard gauge and possibly significant numbers of elevated segments.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  2. Yes, there is a commercially operated Maglev line – running between Pudong International Airport and Longyang Station in Shanghai.

    Besides cost, there is yet to be consensus on safe distances for electro-magnetic effects.

    As for maintenance, Chinese bloggers had raise issues on the unforeseen pre-matured replacement of the superconductor windings and higher than expected maintenance costs.

    Noise could also be an issue at the high speed of over 430 km/h.

    The wheel on rail high speed train can nominally run at 350 km/h, but taking into account other constraints the actual 45 minutes to cover 169 km between Hangzhou City Station and Shanghai Hongqiao Station should be realiseable here. The 90 minutes to cover the distance between KL and Singapore is therefor not far from being accurate.

    Realistically, the Chinese appear to have all their high speed line elevated. This overcomes land acquisition and economic utilization issues. Security of animal and human intrusion is reduced and provides a consistent foundation stiffness for track design.

    Once built the energy (electricity/aviation fuel/vehicular petrol or diesel) required per pax between Singapore and KL will be tremendously reduced, contributing tremendously to positive environmental impacts. It makes working in Singapore and staying in KL viable. Airlines operation between KL and Singapore however may have to depart from the scene.

    As to whether it is commercially viable, we can let the investors put their money where their mouth is.

    The Chinese build much longer lines in about 2 to 3 years. The Hangzhou-Shanghai line was built in about 2 years, so it should be feasible to build the KL Singapore line in 3 years. The lines can be divided into sections and several contractors can build them concurrently.

    1. Hi @Lin

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, the airport maglev in Shanghai is a commercially viable maglev line but it is serving a very specific function and is not operating on an intercity high speed rail route.

      Regarding trip times, assuming that the HSR is a replica of the Chinese HSR, with a fully elevated, relatively straight line, our conservative estimate for a direct, non-stop express trip between KL and Singapore would be 2 hours or slightly greater … based on the distance, expected cruising speed, and the time required for acceleration & deceleration.

      Other factors like the presence of intermediate stops, the actual location of the terminals (assuming the trip starts at KL Sentral, where would the terminal in Singapore be located?) and the actual engineering of the railway will result in an increase in trip times making it closer to 2.5 hours or more for a limited stop KL-Singapore trip.

      We do not believe that the market for air travel between KL and Singapore will be significantly reduced thanks to the following factors: The presence of low-cost airlines, the costs of transport outside of KL Sentral (including congestion, poor public transport and wasted time) and the presence of many potential passengers who live and work outside the city centre and would find access to Subang Airport or KLIA much easier than going into KL.

      We agree that potential environmental and social benefits can be found from the reduction of energy, especially in terms of fuel costs – but these have to be weighed against the social and environmental costs of the construction.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  3. Dear Moaz,

    The travel time for high speed train between Wuhan City Center and Guangzhou North and South Stations, a distance of about 1069km, is between 3hr 16min and 3hr 55min, depending on the no of stops for that particular service.

    The travel time between Nanjing and Shanghai City Center Station, a distance of 300km, is between 1hr 15min and 1hr 56 min, depending on the no of stops for that particular service.

    The corridor between Wuhan and Guangzhou traverses several large river basins bordered by challenging topography while the corridor between Shanghai and Nanjing is relatively heavily developed.

    Checking the google maps of Singapore would reveal the provision for terminal stations is likely to be at Woodlands (some mangrove vegetated area after the Singapore customs complex) or in another undeveloped location about 1.5 to 2.0 km to the south west of the site at Woodlands.

    With the recent understanding reached between Singapore and Malaysia, it unlikely for the stations to be located anywhere further to the south.

    Of course, it is also possible to cross the Terbau Straits at the Pulau Ubin side if it is desirable to connect Changi instead.

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