How much will rail project cost and will it be feasible?
There is a reason that countries with high-speed rail (HSR) links belong to a very small club - it is because building such links are no small feats. It needs massive infrastructure investments, requires a high level of engineering and technical know-how, and requires expensive upkeep and maintenance. Embarking on such a project is an expensive long-term commitment and it is something Malaysia has to be prepared for.
How much will the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) cost? The most frequently mentioned sum seems to be RM30 to RM40 billion. This figure has come into play mostly based on past rail projects and other estimates and is seen as the absolute minimum that a project of this magnitude will cost.
In fact it may even be wishful - a feasibility study conducted in 2011 in Australia looking into what it would cost to build that country’s own HSR system, estimated that a slightly shorter 290km HSR link with five stations would cost close to RM50 billion (assuming there are no cost overruns).
The report factored in land acquisition, stations and city access, maintenance and stabling facilities, power infrastructure, civil and rail infrastructure and IT and ticketing systems. The cost rises to RM80 billion if there is a 90 percent chance of no cost overruns.
Let us consider these factors in our local context, starting with infrastructure. High speed rail links require a specific type of infrastructure that is compatible with the type of trains used in order for it to run smoothly and safely.
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