KL-Singapore high-speed rail link gaining traction?
IT LOOKS like there's going to be war between sky and land, if the second technical study being conducted by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) finds it feasible to give the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project the green light.
The sky between the two cities was already in war mode when budget carriers started providing shuttle services since the implementation of the Asean Open Sky Policy in 2009.
Competitive fares, as a result of the policy, have benefited travellers, who are basically tourists and businessmen. Bilateral trade and tourism activities are the long-term benefits that Malaysia and Singapore are set to gain.
When the high-speed rail project was proposed six years ago, Khazanah Nasional Bhd conducted a feasibility study but shelved it as the country could not afford such a mega project then.
In 2010, a similar proposal was raised again.
Last year, SPAD set up a technical committee to conduct the first phase of a feasibility study to ascertain whether it is feasible to embark on the massive project.
The result of the study must be positive, which led to a second phase of study, to look into more detailed matters such as the alignment and length of the rail link, as well as the number of stops, among others.
The study will be completed by the middle of next year.
The project, which has been earmarked as one of those under the Economic Transformation Programme and is supposed to be driven by the private sector, will have a big impact on the transport industry between the two cities.
Currently, the two cities are linked by planes, express buses and trains.
The choice of any of them will largely depend on the budget, as well as the time factor.
The flying time between the two cities is 30 minutes. It takes an express bus, depending on the company and the situation at the causeway, about five hours to travel between Kuala Lumpur and Woodlands. A train ride takes about seven hours.
The time differences are rather obvious.
With a speed of 250km/hour or higher, the time needed for a high-speed train to travel between the two cities is only 90 minutes.
But do not be fooled by the 30-minute flying time, as the whole journey, including the time to and from airports, check-in, immigration and Customs clearance, waiting, boarding, among others, will easily take three hours.
In view of this, the high-speed train may turn out to be the fastest means of transport between the two countries in future.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said at the second annual modern railways forum that many cities and regions in the world are linked by high speed rail, such as Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Beijing and Shanghai in China and Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan.
High speed rail is therefore an inevitable option in the future, as he puts it: "It's just a matter of time before the high-speed rail system is implemented."
As this is going to be a privatised project, travellers will be interested to know the fare structure.
If it is too high, it may not sit well with express bus users. With more choices for air travellers, they will leave their options open.
Only reasonable fares will be attractive enough to convince express bus and air passengers to switch to high-speed train.
Express bus operators have to enhance their service and shorten the travelling time in order to stay competitive. It remains to be seen how difficult it is for the aviation sector between the two cities to continue surviving when the rail service starts.
The on-and-off price war for the sector between budget airlines is indisputable.
The fact is, the challenge to be posed by high-speed rail will make the already competitive shuttle flight service between the two cities even tougher.
Speed is the keyword of the future.