Lee hopes to sign HSR deal at next re­treat

> Sin­ga­pore prime min­is­ter keen to sign high-speed rail agree­ment when he meets Na­jib

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

SIN­GA­PORE: Sin­ga­pore Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong hopes to sign the bi­lat­eral agree­ment on the de­vel­op­ment of the high­speed rail (HSR) be­tween the repub­lic and Malaysia in the next lead­ers’ re­treat.

Both coun­tries have been discussing the agree­ment for more than a year now, since sev­eral re­treats ago.

“We have made very good progress. We are al­most there, and I hope that when I meet Prime Min­is­ter (Datuk Seri) Na­jib Ab­dul Razak at the next re­treat, we will be able to sign the agree­ment,” Lee said in an in­ter­view with Ber­nama on Mon­day.

In terms of scale, Lee de­scribed the HSR as “very ambitious, very com­pli­cated and a very ex­pan­sive” project.

“We have to try our best to an­tic­i­pate what the likely is­sues are, when we build it, when we op­er­ate it, and have a clear un­der­stand­ing on how we will deal with it if a sit­u­a­tion arises.

“The first thing is to have a sound agree­ment be­tween the two coun­tries on the ba­sis of how the project is struc­tured, how it is go­ing to be ex­e­cuted, and how it is backed by the two gov­ern­ments.

“That is the first re­quire­ment, that we have a very good agree­ment which sets out clearly a sound ba­sis to build and op­er­ate the sys­tem,” he said.

Lee who had pre­vi­ously said that “good ex­e­cu­tion will be cru­cial” for the HSR, was asked on what were the pit­falls, among other things, that should be avoided for the mas­sive long-term in­vest­ment.

He noted that equally the project’s ex­e­cu­tion would be very im­por­tant – in de­sign­ing it, in call­ing for ten­ders, and eval­u­at­ing the pro­pos­als as sev­eral HSR sys­tems in the world had been lob­by­ing very hard to get this con­tract.

Among them are the Japanese, Kore­ans, and the Chi­nese high-speed rail­way sys­tems.

“Each has its strength, and we will have a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion eval­u­at­ing the bid­ders who come along, and de­cid­ing which one is the best over­all,” he ex­plained.

Asked on cost-shar­ing of the mam­moth project, Lee said: “All those have to be clearly spec­i­fied.

“That is one of the things which makes this project com­pli­cated be­cause there are two gov­ern­ments in­volved. It is like the project from Lon­don to Paris, the Chan­nel Tun­nel.

“When you have two au­thor­i­ties in­volved, you have to de­cide how to par­ti­tion, where the line is drawn. I build my part, you build your part, and we have to meet at the same point. If it does not meet, then we will have a big prob­lem,” he said.

Nonethe­less, the Sin­ga­pore prime min­is­ter was very op­ti­mistic as he said: “It is com­pli­cated but there is a will. And there is a good­will, and we would likely make it suc­ceed.”

In Tokyo re­cently, Na­jib had said that Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore were on track to sign an agree­ment on the HSR project by early next month.

The prime min­is­ter said the in­ter­na­tional ten­der to sup­ply the HSR trains could be called by the fourth quar­ter of next year.

He added that most is­sues re­lat­ing to the rail project had been “more or less” re­solved.

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