PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Malaysian PM Najib Tun Razak at the signing of the MOU on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 19 July 2016

PM Lee Hsien Loong held a Joint Press Conference with Malaysian PM Najib Tun Razak at the signing of the MOU on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Project on 19 July 2016.


Thank you, Prime Minister Najib. Ladies and gentlemen, a very good afternoon to all of you. Very happy to be back here in Putrajaya again. And I would like to thank Prime Minister Najib for the warm hospitality, the good lunch, and of course for the durians which we had just now. My visit today is a brief one but a significant one. It is a happy and important occasion because we are here to witness the signing of the MOU on the High Speed Rail project, which we have just done. The two countries have made excellent progress, which is recorded in the MOU. Our officials have worked hard over the last three years, including over several Ramadans and Hari Rayas, and come to agreement on many key issues, which have been captured in the MOU. There are one or two issues and some details which still need to be worked out, but the main picture is there, and I would like to join Dato’ Sri Najib in thanking the ministers on both sides who negotiated these arrangements, particularly Dato’ Sri Wahid Omar on the Malaysian side, Minister in the PMO and Minister Khaw Boon Wan on our side. So there are a few details to be worked out but the main picture is already there and the next step is to tie down the details and to sign the Bilateral Agreement, which we hope we can do by the end of the year. After that, the execution of this agreement will be crucial, because while the broad directions and the framework will have been set, I foresee the need for the two countries to work very closely together on the many joint decisions and the many difficult implementation issues which will need to be handled. But we are all committed to putting in our full attention to this because we want this major bilateral project to be done right. If all goes well, the first trains will start running between KL and Singapore around 2026, just 10 years from now. In fact, this is a very ambitious timetable because even for our MRT lines in Singapore, which are much less ambitious projects, they take typically 12 to 15 years from inception to service. And this one is a High Speed Rail, cross border project on a much bigger scale nearly 400 kilometres long, with many more components to work out. But we have to get this right, because the HSR will bring our two countries together, and change the way each of us thinks of the other. It will physically link our two capitals; each will be just a short train ride away; it will draw our peoples and our economies together, and we can think of Singapore and KL in the same way as people think of London-Paris, Taipei-Kao Hsiung or Tokyo-Osaka. And just as you can come down from KL, have lunch in Singapore and go back to KL, so too, people can zip up from Singapore to KL comfortably, watch a show, do some business, come back, do some work on the laptop on the train, and be home in time for dinner with the family. It will not seem like going overseas at all. So there is a lot at stake and it is a massive investment for both countries, in terms of resources, in terms of the financing, and in terms of the organisational focus and energies which will be necessary. It demonstrates not just how close our two countries are but also how much we want to do things together. So that we can cooperate and prosper together, dealing with each other as equals, focussing on the larger strategic picture and on the win-win benefits. So it has been a short but fruitful visit, and look forward to our Annual Leaders’ Retreat later this year. Today, the HSR has been the focus, but we have many other areas of collaboration, and we will talk about those again when next Dato’ Sri Najib and I meet each other. Thank you very much.

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Leslean Arshad: Good afternoon, I am Leslean from BERNAMA. What will be the foreseeable economic benefits generated from this project, and how probably it helps to flourish the economies of both sides?

PM: Well, the economic benefit is the convenience of being next door to one another. One and a half hours away, very affordable, very simple, very easy to get in touch, to do business, to make friends, in order to be one integrated economy. And that means opportunities for our business people, opportunities for our tourists, opportunities for people from other countries visiting one country or the other, you can get back both destinations for the price of one. I think there are many spinoff benefits in terms of the development potential around the terminus, in Singapore and also in Malaysia. In Malaysia, you are doing it in Bandar Malaysia. In Singapore, we are doing it in the Jurong Lake district. There will be indirect benefits to the businesses which can take advantage of this convenience and therefore, flourish and grow in both territories. If you look at between Taipei and Kao Hsiung, or between Shanghai and Nanjing, for example, in China, when two cities like these are connected together, both cities benefit. There is more competition, but there is more business to be done. It means vitality; it means a wide variety of options; it means a more rapid pace of progress. So I see this as a very positive project. It is a major undertaking. It will cost quite a lot on both sides and we have to get it right. But if we do, it will be a lasting and a strategic contribution.

Lee U-Wen: Good afternoon Prime Ministers. My name is Lee U-Wen from The Business Times in Singapore. My question is for both Prime Ministers. As Mr Najib mentioned earlier, there has been a lot of interest from various countries in the HSR, and in the coming years, both Singapore and Malaysia will be calling international tenders for various areas, you know, the assets company, the train operating companies. How will Singapore and Malaysia ensure that the entire tender process is fair, transparent and open, and ensure that it goes to the best bidder? Thank you.

PM: Well, this is one of the items which has to be settled and has been discussed between the two sides, to how the project is going to be structured, how the tenders are to be called, what is the sequence in which they are going to be called, what does each package consist of, and then how will the tenders be evaluated. So the structure has to be right, the execution has to be properly done and when we evaluate the tenders, the evaluation has to be objective and fair and transparent, so that when we make the decision, we are quite sure that we get the best value and the best choice for the project. And it is something which both sides will be working closely together on.

At the end of it, we will have to make a joint decision, because this is a joint project, and we will both have to carry the consequences of our choice.

Joseph Kaos Jr.: Hello, Joseph from The Star newspaper. How much will the project cost, do you expect, and what would be the fees be like if this HSR is going to be considered a commuter service?

Kenneth Lim: Hi good afternoon, Prime Ministers, I am Kenneth Lim from Channel News Asia. So my question is addressed to both Prime Ministers. So we understand that, you know, train services will begin, expected to begin in 2026, so 10 years is not a short time. So how do we ensure that this timeline will be met, and are there any potential bumps you foresee given the global economic and political environment? Thank you.

PM: I think we will work very closely together, it is a very tight timeline, and there are many potential bumps. Global economy may or may not be one, because that is an external factor, and as long as the countries have been able to put aside the resources which are available, the project will proceed. But the project itself has got many complexities and they all have to be put together like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle, and we must make sure that we get all those things right in order to get the project done in the most expeditious time.

Signing of HSR MOU on 19 Jul 2016 (MCI Photo by Terence Tan)