Japan Wants To Build The 350-km Rail Line That Will Link Singapore To Kuala Lumpur

KL day-trippers in Singapore will have already been alerted to the news of the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail. Slated to be completed in 2026, the joint venture between the two countries is currently accepting bids for the project tender.

French and South Korean consortiums have expressed interest in bidding for the project, but the heaviest interest is expected to come from China.

But now, Japan has thrown their name in the hat. Makio Miyagawa, Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia, revealed his home country’s ambitions to expand their infrastructure expertise by building the 8-station, 350- km line.

Japan, of course, extols the virtues of the renowned Shinkansen, or bullet trains. A bid would bank on their technological expertise and very impressive track record in safely operating the Shinkansen back home.

China, or course, is focusing on price competitiveness.

We here at MSN think that the project tender should go to Japan. Let us count the reasons why.

1. Japan is famed for their accountability

In November 2017, news outlets around the world were amused to report an apology issued by the management of Japan’s Tsukuba Express, which plies the route between Tokyo and Tsukuba. The amusement stemmed from the fact that they were apologising for a train leaving the station 20 seconds early. The apology was short and to the point, in typical Japanese fashion.

In 2011, an overloaded computer control system caused 5 lines of East Japan Railway’s Shinkansen service to grind to a screeching halt for an hour. An estimated 81,200 commuters were affected. JR East then issued an official apology and went the extra mile by publishing a 7-page explanation for the incident.

Complete with intricate diagrams of a man morphing into a signal box.

In Japan, the chairman and CEO would call a press conference, take a deep bow and, in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan may never live this quote down. It was a bit of a non sequitur made in Parliament regarding the AHPETC case. While we don’t want to see messy disembowelment anytime soon on our shores, we do sometimes wish that SMRT plainly and clearly puts information forward, instead of bombarding us with technical jargon.

2. They are obsessed with punctuality

If you’ve been late for something at least once in the last few years, kee chiu.

… is what I would do if I took public transport!

Japan is famous for many things. And their obsession with punctuality is one of them. When a Japanese local steps on board a train in Japan, he expects to arrive exactly on time. When trains are delayed for as little as five minutes, the conductor makes an announcement apologizing for the delay and the railway company may provide a ‘delay certificate’, as no one would expect a train to be this late.

Imagine this system in other countries. There’d be a critical paper shortage affecting the globe within a few days.

However, some would say that this obsession causes undue stress. In 2005, a 23-year-old train driver was speeding when the bullet train he was driving derailed and crashed into an apartment building, killing 107 and injuring 562.

3. Hardware and software superiority

The Japanese are extremely proud of their train system. A national icon in every sense of the word, Japan was the first country to boast a High-Speed Rail network. And they have remained at the top of the game for over 50 years.

The Shinkansen was the symbol that Japan had not only caught up, but, in terms of railway technology at least, in 1964 had overtaken the rest of the world – Christopher P. Hood in Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan.

The Shinkansen, like most modern train systems, are outfitted with various kinds of computer systems that keep track of everything. Together, they have helped the Shinkansen become the world’s busiest high-speed line.

In 2015, a Japanese maglev train broke the world record it had itself set. At an astonishing speed of 603 km/h, the record still stands and is being looked at being implemented between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027.

Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.

It’s not solely up to us to make the decision

While we may wax lyrical about the benefits of the Shinkansen, the fact remains that of the 8 stations proposed, only one of them is in Singapore. The station in Jurong East will be the sole disembarking point of the high-speed rail. Malaysia will house the majority of the stations.

Of course, this means that Malaysia will be paying for the building and maintenance of the stations on their side.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stressed that the “right business model” is needed to complete the project within the proposed time frame. The joint coalition will be accepting bids till mid-2018, with the goal of awarding the contract by the end of the year.

We hope that both countries take this as a chance to advance both their transport systems with an injection of Japanese technology and efficiency. God knows our side needs it.

Featured image taken from Facebook.