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Economy

KL-Singapore high-speed rail bidders granted more time

Extension given due to complexity of project, start date unchanged

Alstom's TGV and Siemens' ICE high-speed trains at Munich railway station. The companies have formed a consortium with Malaysia's George Kent.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Bidders for the high-speed railway connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have requested and been granted more time to submit tenders, promoters of the 350km line said on Thursday.

In a joint statement, MyHSR Corp and SG HSR, the state-run companies that oversee the project, extended the tender submission deadline from the end of June to the end of the year. They also assured that the targeted start date of Dec. 31, 2026, will not be affected, even though the tender result will not be known until the third quarter of next year, nearly nine months later than planned.

The first cross-border high-speed rail project in Southeast Asia, with an estimated cost of 60 billion ringgit ($15.5 billion), has attracted strong interest from domestic and foreign companies aiming to run the "asset company" which will handle design, construction, financing, operations and maintenance.

"While the bidders are progressing with their tender preparations, they have also requested for additional time to develop their tender submissions that offer better value to both governments," read the statement.

The promoters said they have taken into consideration the complexity and scale of the project.

The Malaysian government announced last October that it had begun the land acquisition process. The line will probably not be built adjacent to an existing railway that zigzags between smaller towns, as high-speed rail requires a straighter route.

So far, four European industrial heavyweights, including Siemens and Alstom, have formed a consortium with Malaysian engineering company George Kent to bid for the project. The consortium is likely to face off against bidders from China and Japan who have also registered their interest.

The Malaysia and Singapore governments have promoted the project as the symbol of closer bilateral cooperation, which will bring economic benefits for towns along the line. Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, who will be running in the country's election on May 9, has vowed to develop neglected rail links, including the high-speed project.

When the rail line opens it will have three services -- a Kuala Lumpur-Singapore express, a shuttle service between the southern city of Johor Bahru and Singapore, and a domestic service in Malaysia with seven stops.

Designed to reach a theoretical maximum speed of 350kph on a double track, the service will take 90 minutes to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, a journey that normally takes about four hours by car.

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