Friday, 28 May 2010

Shinkansen station coming to Woodlands

Finally, Singapore and Malaysia have reached an accord on moving the Malaysian Railways (KTM) train station from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. Negotiators between the two nations shaped a compromise which involves some give and take from both nations.
Malaysian Railways junction in Kampong Bahru, Singapore

Press reports indicate that the bilateral agreement also includes the following points:
·         Reducing tolls on the Second Link between Singapore and Malaysia;
·         The building of a 'rapid transit' link between the two nations;
·         Developing an 'iconic structure' in the new Iskandar  development zone  in Johor Bahru;
·         Establishment of a jointly owned company to develop the existing KTM land in Tanjong Pagar. The company will be 60% and 40% owned by Malaysia and Singapore respectively.
Some Singaporean commentators suggest Singapore may have been too accommodating towards Malaysia. No doubt, Malaysian nationalists will be screaming blue murder at their end too.
However, take a look at the big picture. The fates of Singapore and Malaysia are intimately connected. Any agreement which promotes prosperity in neighbouring Johor is good for Singapore. Additionally, upgrading existing transportation infrastructure between the two nations has tremendous benefits for economic activities in both countries.
My only complaint is that an understanding on upgrading the rail infrastructure between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was not concluded. Anyone who has travelled between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (KL) by rail is aware that the current train infrastructure is, at best, sufficient for a cash strapped third world nation living on a colonial rail legacy.
While there is some romance to travelling by the fabled Khyber Mail train from Karachi to Peshawar, an almost seven hour rail journey between Singapore and KL is neither practical nor nostalgic.
Singapore and Malaysia have resources to invest in their infrastructure. The approximately 500 kilometre journey between the two capitals should not take more than three hours by rail. A bullet train, or shinkansen, should be the next shiny symbol of development and cooperation between the two nations!Perhaps the money obtained from developing the Tanjong Pagar land parcel can be reinvested into creating a bullet train line.
Japanese bullet train, or shinkansen, passing by Mount Fuji

Singapore and Malaysia are joined at the hip. Importantly, they complement each other's strengths and decrease their weaknesses. By allowing the 'special relationship' between the two nations to flourish there is a chance history may turn full circle and result in a confederation between the two sovereign states.

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