Malaysia-Singapore Connectivity: Increased Rail, Road and Sea Links

February 20, 2013

No. 034/2013 dated 20 February 2013

RSIS Commentaries

Malaysia-Singapore Connectivity: Increased Rail, Road and Sea Links

by Mushahid Ali


Malaysia and Singapore are set to enter a new era of connectivity and cooperation with the agreement to build a high speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Together with regional-level joint projects, it will give both countries greater stakes in each other’s progress.


Najib and LeeTHE ANNOUNCEMENT by the leaders of Malaysia and Singapore this week of increased rail, road and sea links between the two countries in the next seven years heralds a new era of enhanced connectivity and closer cooperation between the two ASEAN members. Prime Ministers Najib Tun Razak and Lee Hsien Loong described the proposed High Speed Rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as a strategic development in bilateral relations that will dramatically improve the connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. It also presages a region-wide initiative to increase physical connectivity among ASEAN member countries.

A Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) for Iskandar Malaysia has been tasked to look into details and modalities of the HSR link, targeted for completion by 2020. Recognising the wider ramifications of the rail link, they said it will usher in a new era of strong growth, prosperity and opportunities for both countries, besides facilitating seamless travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore that will enhance business linkages and bring the peoples of Malaysia and Singapore closer together. Ultimately, they added, this project will give both countries greater stakes in each other’s prosperity and success.


Beyond the economic benefits the HSR has potential for strengthening people to people relations and changing the way they look at each other. PM Lee is confident that it will be a real game-changer in bilateral ties, bringing the two cities into one urban configuration, similar to that between London and Paris and cutting the commute  between them to 90 minutes.

Though a high speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was mooted some 15 years ago as part of the Singapore-Kunming railway, that failed to take off as it was premature. This time, PM Najib is confident that it will be realised and completed by 2020, with continuity assured whatever the complexion of the governments in both countries.

The two prime ministers announced the HSR link after their annual retreat in Singapore on 18-19 February 2013, the fourth in as many years. It signifies the vast improvement in bilateral relations during the period, marked by resolution of the Points of Agreement on Malayan Railway land in Singapore, the return of PUB waterworks in Johor on termination of the 1961 water agreement and culminating in the 2011 agreement on joint development of projects in Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia. It was then that PM Najib proposed the HSR link.

Besides the HSR link, the leaders also agreed to strengthen connectivity through the Rapid Transit System Link between Woodlands and Johor Bahru, for which the first phase of a joint engineering study is near completion. The JMC will also study measures to address traffic congestion issues on the Causeway as well as the feasibility of a third road link between the two countries in the longer term.

For sea connectivity, the two PMs took note that new CIQ facilities at the Puteri Harbour in the Iskandar Malaysia zone will be set up this year. Ferry services will be operating between Puteri Harbour and Singapore, subject to the regulator’s evaluation of the services. The JMC will continue to explore further links to improve connectivity between both countries.

The new connectivity initiatives follow the launch of joint developments by the state-owned corporations Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings in Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore. The strategic projects reflect a high degree of trust and complementarity between the two countries, the prime ministers said. They witnessed the unveiling of the Marina One and DUO projects in downtown Singapore and the Urban and Resort Wellness projects in Medini.

Recognising that a dynamic and successful Iskandar Malaysia would benefit both Malaysia and Singapore, they agreed to intensify existing cooperation and explore new ways to leverage on the complementarities between Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia. An Industrial Cooperation Work Group set up by the JMC will develop the details.

Cooperation on environmental issues

The Malaysian and Singapore leaders highlighted closer cooperation between their agencies on environmental issues with transboundary and navigational implications. They agreed to continue cooperating on such issues by adopting best practices for addressing areas of environmental concern and taking appropriate mitigation measures.

On a bilateral level, they acknowledged the importance of ensuring reliable water supply from the Johor River as provided under the 1962 Water Agreement and encouraged the Singapore and Johor water authorities to continue their excellent working relationship.

The Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction that both sides had resolved to expand the 700 MHz digital dividend radio frequencies. The expanded frequencies are expected to be made available after the period of conversion from analogue to digital broadcasting, taking into account regional spectrum coordination arrangements.

In regard to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment on Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, the leaders welcomed the successful completion of the joint survey works in and around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks and agreed that the next step would be to move into the delimitation of maritime boundaries.

ASEAN integration goals

As Malaysia and Singapore are core members of ASEAN the two Prime Ministers underscored the importance of ASEAN unity to enhance its central role in the region’s evolving architecture. They expressed confidence in ASEAN’s progress towards its 2015 ASEAN Community building goals and looked forward to advancing ASEAN integration and maintaining regional stability in the year ahead.

The rail, road and sea connectivity projects between Malaysia and Singapore will set a good example for the development of similar linkages among ASEAN member countries and enhance regional cohesion.

Mushahid Ali is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

15 thoughts on “Malaysia-Singapore Connectivity: Increased Rail, Road and Sea Links

  1. We don’t need to talk with the Singaporeans or anybody else, when we can hardly talk with each other. The HSR is a wet dream come true for YTL Corp. It should be noted that Singaporeans need it much more than Malaysians. Otherwise they will go bonkers, being squeezed into their little dot.
    This is a much better and holistic approach:

  2. In rescent weeks I have had the opportunity to travel in China in their fast bullet train to different parts of China. The constant spped the trains were travellin at about 310 kilometers per hour. The rides were smooth, the coaches clean and silent as it sliced through the air. In winter the speed was reduced to 280 kilometers per hour.(we travelled from Beijing to Harbin.) Subsquently a trade deleagtion from Australia we were taken on a tour of the factory that engineers and manufatures these bullet trains and coaches. Immaculate air conditioned and dust free production system, engineered to perform at highest safety standard like in the avaition industry. This the worlds largest suplier of bullet trains from saudia Arabia to Brazil and now to NSW in Australia. The CEO, in his briefing told us the componay also has a supply cpntract to Singapore.

    It would be worth for any serious parties to talk to this management of this company for any joint venture .

  3. anakrayat

    Things work entirely different in PRC, a command economy and authoritarian government.

    Services are produced by mandate. Rolls really roll when targets are off. A DG of the rail minister told me PRC aimed in being world best rail industry producer. With mandate, they have gotten there. Due to need for stocks, OZ ppl visit them. Oz has NO NEED for PRC type of rail mode. Oz has one thing none has: road train due to flat terrain across Oz.

    Can our civil service work on mandate like that of PRC?

    KL to Spore (JB) only 500km (rounded). There are hundreds of such point in PRC and common affairs. Here we do one with big huha. when can finish?

    Tunnel across to Spore? JB straits short distance only, many countries have done this.

    It is Spore that need us for our land. Perhaps all this will be good so that one day we can rejoin.

  4. HRS will benefit Kuala Lumpur more than Singapore. Just track property prices in KL once the HRS is completed. This project should have been undertaken 20 years ago instead of PETRONAS putting money into a building that provides one whole floor as office of the Chairman.

  5. PS We also put good money to chase a bad project like doubling tracking. What should have been done, if only our leaders had had not trusted their gut feeling, is leave the British built rail tracks as it was with KTM using it for transport of cargo and the money invested in HRS. The wise man does at the beginning what the not so wise man does at the end.

    Leaders have to learn to unravel policies and grapple with the data and absorb the science of politics and economics.We need more statistical literacy in our quest foe good and profitable governance.

  6. At this eleventh hour of Najib’s government, Singapore played ball with him and signs up a contract like this. Doesn’t the whole thing smells? Why can’t Singapore wait for 6 months and see who wins in GE13

    Doesn’t this make one wonder whether our Southerly neighbour has something up their sleeves? Methink that our neighbour is rooting for Najib and BN to continue their term. A weak Malaysia under BN is important to Singapore.

  7. Why all happen betw JB to KL.
    Look the East Coast side. so much to go around.
    Why Iskandar city for Jurong III.
    Just tell Sg, if they want they they can do the East Coast side. That would spread out our development.
    Its Sg that wants our land, so tell them JV East Coast side all the way to KB. Take that or leave it. They do not have a choice, we do and we bought into their ideas.

    One good thing about Madhater: he wont trade-off our land, not even our dormant railway land that split Spore into two from JB to Tg. Pagar. For that I support Madhater, But only for that and a few other things.

  8. I agree with you implicitly, Muthu.
    Any nation is as weak as it’s lowest common denominator. In this case the gonna be ousted Pee-Em. Honestly to enter into an agreement like that at the end of his tenure says a lot about his foresight, or rather lack of.

    What i can understand is that this is another scheme/scam for ‘enrichment’. Those Billions could have bought all the toll concessionaires on our congested tolled highways which are so ‘cronified’, that it boggles the mind. By doing that, Jibs could have taken one wind off the Opposition sails, even though it reeks of mimicry and plagiarism. Instead he adds another breeze to bulk up the sails. Look it’s not image, branding or glamour, the average Malaysian is seeking – it’s all the other things like survival.

    The only particular reason i see for a bullet-train, is to avoid the indiscriminate Mat Rempit and AES menace. But also the average idiotic Ugly Malaysian driver, who either has the skills of quadriplegics/Parkinson’s disease or else manic speed hounds. Many of us will deny it, but our problem is not so much driving under the influence (DUI), but plain old vertigo. At least a speeding locomotive goes straight!

    For all the splendor of bullet trains, the sheer maintenance required is daunting – what with our tropical downpours and inclement weather. Not to mention Condo Cows roaming the tracts. If they can’t even double tract the existing tracts, what makes you
    guys think they can sustain a HSR? They might as well call it Pro-Tong.

  9. FYI: its NOT bullet train, just semi High Speed Train
    Guangzhou – Beijing 3,300 km at 8 hours max speed 300kph
    Maglev – 420kph over 20km in Shanghai
    many semi-high speed in PRC at max 200kph

    JB-KL just 500km and many stops so expect just semi-high speed.

    KTM commuter continues for Ipoh-KL-Seremban

    Easy way is HSR rans // to PLUS highway. The PLUS now go acquire more land banks at ultra cheap price. late sell to HSR concessionaires for a song.
    Verdict: Buy Plus shares NOW.

    What about existing rail line? For cargoes la.

    For a dual track HSR to behave like a conveyor belt, cant have anything in between to play hide and seek.

    Check PRC HSR:
    Purposive dual tracks. period.

  10. THIS project should have been started a decade ago and completed by now. Not only will it not happen by 2020 (its just a freaking announcement for GE likely) – the double tracking project which started back even before the 1998 financial crises is STILL not even close to being done what with no news of the the Gemas-Johor leg while the Sereman-Gemas leg is supposedly promised for earliest July this year.

    By bet is you won’t see this until 2025 or later..

  11. Din,
    Interesting news! OTK still insist that he still standing for Pandan. Hold your horses, Anwar would woo him into PKR……Now would Lion of Jelutong jump

    Yadda! Yadda! Anwar says that victory to be won in Sarawak & Sabah. Thanks to Azmin Ali, Pakatan still squabbling over seats there especially in Sarawak when PKR dictating DAP to cede over Miri & Stampin……Especially in 2008, PKR lost the deposit over in 2 contituencies

    It seems that people never learn……Perhaps, Khir Toyol can tell Adnan, the middle finger Pahang MB how Khir lost the entire selangor government

    It’s amazing that BN/UMNO treated own citizens like shit but afraid of folks from another country in uniform

    I strongly suggest that PKR to give up 2 melayu seats in Penang. I am sure that there are 2 seats that PKR can’t win……Why? Can’t afford DAP to run Penang

    Thanks to Madhater, we may cede Sabah to Philipines……Can we persecute Madhater for high treason?

    Meanwhile, Najib is sweating like a pig when Khalid decided to make his move

  12. When more mega deals are signed before GE, it further reinforce BN desperation to win with whatever it takes. What if Pakatan wins? Then those deals have to be renegotiated?

  13. The HSR using the MAGLEV technology would be very expensive to build. The track would be elevated running in the middle of the existing motorway between KL – JB. I have no issues if this project is 100 per cent privately funded. It would be interesting to see how MAS, AirAsia and HSR competes for passengers and who would be the one who would be just carrying air for a very long time and waiting to be rescued by the taxpayers. It will be a good example of head I win and tail you lose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s