After the proposed Shinkansen high speed rail (HSR) project, connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Japan is enthusiastically awaiting Malaysia's response.
Masafumi Shukuri, International High-Speed Rail Association chairman said that he expects a firmer decision to be made after certain specifications are finalised by May.
"I hope Malaysia will join Japan and other countries operating the HSR, as it will augur well towards enhancing land travel to a higher level," said Shukuri,
"We are prepared to provide our customers like Malaysia with the specifications and technical support to fit their requirements and budget, as we have various models that can be tailor made," Shukuri added.
India clinched a deal with Japan in Dec 2015 to run the Shinkansen between Mumbai in Maharastra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat – a distance of over 505km – in 2 hours and 7 minutes. The United States is mulling the Shinkansen to connect Dallas with Houston – a distance of 385km – in 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, East Japan Railway Company international affairs adviser Ryuji Sakamoto said the Shinkansen has proved its mettle without a single major incident
"The Shinkansen is the pride of Japan since (the Tokyo Olympics in) 1964 with zero fatalities."There is hardly any delay except when encountering natural disasters like earthquakes, to which the Shinkansen is designed to withstand up to 8.0 on the Richter scale," said Sakamoto, who has over 50 years of experience in the industry as project designer and engineer.
He added that to overcome the exorbitant procurement and operating costs, Japan's government has encouraged private corporations and local authorities to be stakeholders.
Sakamoto revealed that a total of 17 million people use all types of rail services daily in Japan, with 600,000 commuters using Tokyo's main rail station daily.
A typical Shinkansen plying the Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka route can traverse the 515.4km in 2 hours 22 minutes, with a maximum speed of 320km per hour. It also runs every three minutes, carrying 28,000 passengers every hour during peak periods, with 1,323 seats available.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that Malaysia is on track for the postponed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project, but the speed of the trains might be reduced from 400km per hour, to cut costs.
The proposed 350km-long HSR line, originally estimated to cost US$17 billion, aims to reduce travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to around 90 minutes, from the current 11 hours on existing train services. It is among several mega projects approved by the previous Malaysian government that have come under review, as the Pakatan Harapan administration re-looks the country's finances after being saddled with a debt of US$200 billion.
Last September, Singapore and Malaysia formally agreed to postpone the construction of the HSR until end-May 2020, with Malaysia having to pay Singapore S$15 million for costs incurred in suspending the project.A few months later, the Malaysian company managing the project said it had appointed technical and commercial consultants to review proposed design changes and identify options to cut cost.
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