China, Japan and S Korea eye multi-billion dollar HSR prize
KUALA LUMPUR – Three of Asia’s biggest economies pulled out all the stops at the SPAD Land Public Transport (LPT) Symposium, with all eyes on the multi-billion ringgit prize – the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail contract.
China proclaimed that it would build the rail faster and cheaper. Japan confidently said the safety and quality of its Shinkansen was unbeatable, while South Korea stressed it offers the best of both.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar toured elaborate train set-ups by the China Railway Corporation, East Japan Railway Co and Korea Rail Network Authority at the symposium yesterday.
All three companies provided virtual reality simulations of how fast their trains would operate and how they would respond to security problems.
China was the flashiest of the three, renting a huge space in the KL Convention Centre, featuring a storey-high screen and a train control panel to give exhibition participants an idea of its version of the HSR.
Japan’s simulation was a game with its bullet train mascot Shinkalion, while South Korea was driven towards education of the technology used in its HSR system.
Malaysia and Singapore signed a memorandum in July to open the new high speed rail line by 2026, promising to spur economic growth in areas along the 350km line. The project could cost up to RM63bil (S$20.8 billion).
East Japan Railway vice chairman Masaki Ogata, said although its train may be seen as “expensive” Japan was banking on the reliability and quality of its Shinkansen to draw passengers and cut maintenance costs.
“We are confident we can provide a very early operation launch and we understand Malaysia and Singapore already know the quality of the Shinkansen. The life cycle of the Shinkansen can mean very low maintenance cost,” he said.
China Railway chief engineer He Huawu said China would build in one year what his competitors would do in five years.
He argued that China had a better safety record than Japan, considering its bullet train travels longer distances.
“For every billion passenger-km, we have the least injuries and deaths. Our cost is definitely lower because we have large-scale production of railways. I build 1,000km high-speed rail, they build 100km high-speed rail. Of course, our cost is lower, isn’t it?” he said.
Korea Rail Network Authority general manager Yoon Chi Man said it could provide Malaysia and Singapore Japan’s technology at cheaper prices.
“I’m not sure we can beat China’s price. But I’m sure we can beat Japan’s price. We have a very unique technology that is compatible with Japan and we can give a good experience to Malaysia and Singapore,” said Yoon.
“Malaysia is spoiled for choice,” said Liow.
“We will have to work with Singapore on this. I think they (the three countries) have very good technical support and technology and we are looking forward to them taking part,” said Liow.
Syed Hamid on the other hand, assured that consumer prices for the HSR would remain low.
“Definitely, the price is not going to be more expensive than an airline ticket. But we cannot determine now. It’s too early. May the best party win,” he said.
The HSR project will have eight stations – Bandar Malaysia, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat, Iskandar Puteri and Singapore.
It is expected to reduce rail travel time between Malaysia and Singapore to just 90 minutes, with speeds of over 300km per hour.