SINGAPORE, Feb 19 — Singapore and Malaysia said today they have agreed to build a high-speed rail link between the wealthy city-state and Kuala Lumpur, part of growing economic ties between the Southeast Asian neighbours.
“This is a strategic development that will dramatically improve the connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. It will usher in a new era of strong growth, prosperity and opportunities for both countries,” Reuters reported the two governments as saying in a joint statement.
New Customs, Immigration and quarantine facilities at Puteri Harbour in Malaysia’s Iskandar economic zone will likely be set up this year, said the statement issued after a meeting between Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The target to complete the rail link, which will cut travel time between the two capital cities to 90 minutes, is 2020, Lee said. The two prime ministers have tasked a joint ministerial committee to look into the details of the rail link, the statement said.
International business wire Bloomberg reported Najib as saying that Malaysia will provide the infrastructure support for the project, but added that the prime minister did not offer further details.
Najib also reportedly said the project would be built via public-private partnership “with strong government participation”.
Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia (CNA) quoted Najib as saying that the project would complement Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and add opportunities for its residents.
“So I am excited about the project. We will certainly do our level best to meet the 2020 deadline. It may go slightly beyond that, but those are details in implementation,” he said.
On Bloomberg, Lee was quoted as describing the project as “strategic”, adding that it would change the way both nations view one another.
“It’s the way people in London and Paris are able to think of it, really as twin cities where you can commute, go up there, do business, meet friends, have a meal and come back all within maybe two-thirds of the day,” he was quoted as saying.
“And I think it is going to be a game changer. It will transform the way people interact, the intensity of our co-operation and the degree to which we become interdependent on each other and therefore have stakes on each other’s success,” he added.
According to Reuters, the two leaders will also officiate joint-venture projects involving state investors Temasek Holdings and Khazanah Nasional Bhd in Singapore and Iskandar, just across a narrow strip of water from the city-state.
Temasek and Khazanah agreed in 2011 jointly to develop “wellness” projects in Iskandar that they believe will be worth around RM billion when completed.
Singapore companies dominate the firms setting up factories in Iskandar after being initially lukewarm. Interest picked up only after the two countries signed a broad agreement in 2010 to address longstanding issues.
A number of Singapore residents have already bought homes in Iskandar, including Templeton fund manager Mark Mobius, who has a bungalow for weekend getaways.
Singapore government-linked firm Ascendas, whose projects include the Singapore Science Park and the International Tech Park in Bangalore, said in October it will help build a US$1.2 billion (RM3.7 billion) industrial park in Iskandar.