More Japanese companies to bid for HSR project

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic by AFIF ABD HALIM

AS MANY as 10 Japanese companies are eyeing for a slice of the estimated RM60 billion Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project, intensifying the rivalry between Asia’s two largest economies.

Chinese firms have made it clear of their intention to secure the 350km rail line, which will cut rail travelling time and spur economic development along the corridor.

Japan’s East Japan Railway Co, Sumitomo Corp, Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd have been reported to be keen on Malaysia’s single most expensive infrastructure project.

Electronic giant NEC Corp has also stated its interest to partner the core companies in the project.

Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) KL MD Akira Kajita (pic) said all the Japan-based companies are expected to be part of a single consortium that comprises railway enterprises, real estate developers, heavy machineries and electronic firms.

“There is a Japanese group of eight to 10 companies who will compete with other contingents for the HSR project. I think that will be the only group who will bid (from Japan),” he told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

Japan is globally recognised for their Shinkansen bullet train that connects key cities across the island nation with speeds up to 300km/h.

Interest for Malaysia’s first HSR has garnered attention from European and Korean firms as well.

Many analysts believe the competition will be between Japanese and Chinese firms. The HSR project, expected to be completed by 2026, will cut the rail travelling time between KL and Singapore to just 90 minutes compared to the present seven hours.

Kajita is confident that the Japanese cluster of bidders will be able to compete and offer a complete package across all areas of the development.

“Japan is not only interested in developing the railway system, but also in the regional development. That means we can compete by offering a complete package,” Kajita said.

He said the country’s experience in developing the HSR and creating townships within the parameters of the HSR stations will give Japan the upper hand.

“The KL-Singapore line will have eight stations, including in Negri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor. We can expect further mega Japanese investments in retail, residences and manufacturing at these areas (if Japan wins the deal),” he said.

Tokyo’s interest in the HSR project ballooned after the cancellation of TRX City Sdn Bhd’s proposed 60% stake sale to IWH CREC Sdn Bhd to develop Bandar Malaysia — which will house the KL-Singapore HSR link.

In May, commercial attaché for the Japanese Embassy in KL, Sosuke Tanaka, said the award of the HSR contract to Japan will serve as an impetus for an influx of new Japanese investments into Malaysia.

“We will develop new townships together with Malaysian firms at all HSR stations. Inside the stations, you will have classy department stores and other facilities catering for various lifestyles, as what we have done in Japan,” said Tanaka.

Japanese companies were also engaged in the construction of the mass rapid transit (MRT) project. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was tasked with the construction of the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang line.