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Singapore, Malaysia set to sign high speed rail deal
THE prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia are meeting in Putrajaya on Tuesday afternoon to witness the signing of a bilateral agreement on the planned high speed rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
This will be the highlight of the seventh leaders' retreat involving PM Lee Hsien Loong and PM Najib Razak that will be held in the Malaysian federal administrative capital.
The legally binding agreement will be signed by Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
The retreat was initially scheduled for last Monday in Johor, but it was postponed as Singapore had requested for more time in order to brief President Tony Tan Keng Yam on the project.
"(PM Lee) asked to be given some time because they needed to brief and get the approval from the President," said Mr Najib in an interview with reporters at an event in Johor last week.
In a statement issued on Monday ahead of Mr Lee's visit, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said the signing of the bilateral agreement is a "culmination of intensive bilateral discussions" since the HSR was first announced at the 2013 leaders' retreat in Singapore.
The signing ceremony on Tuesday is also a further sign of the "good progress" made by both countries since the signing of the memorandum of understanding in Putrajaya in July this year.
Inking the bilateral agreement is a demonstration of the two governments' commitment to the project, which will boost connectivity, strengthen economic ties and enhance people-to-people linkages when completed, the PMO added.
The proposed 350-kilometre double-track HSR line will have one terminus in the new township of Bandar Malaysia, at the edge of Kuala Lumpur, with the other at the upcoming Jurong Lake District, in the west of Singapore.
Customs, immigration and quarantine facilities for the railway will be co-located at three stops - Singapore, Iskandar Puteri in Johor and Bandar Malaysia in KL.
The construction of the HSR is expected to begin in 2018 and the plan is to have the first trains up and running by 2026.
The estimated travel time from one end to the other is about 90 minutes, compared to four to five hours by car, depending on the traffic. A flight takes about 50 minutes or so but passengers must spend extra time checking in and out of airports, as well as travelling from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the city centre.
The HSR is expected to have eight stations in total: the Jurong East station in Singapore, and Bandar Malaysia, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri stations in Malaysia. There will also be a shuttle service between Singapore and Iskandar Puteri.
In an interview with Bernama two weeks ago, Mr Lee stressed that the project's execution will be very important - in designing it, calling for tenders and evaluating the proposals.
He said that several HSR systems in the world, including Japan, South Korea and China, have been lobbying hard to get the contract.
While in Putrajaya, Mr Lee will be accompanied by his wife Ho Ching and a high-level delegation that includes Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Mr Khaw and eight other office-holders.
Those on the trip include Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng.
Senior Ministers of State Indranee Rajah (Finance and Law) and Desmond Lee (Home Affairs and National Development), and Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min are also in the delegation.