Does Malaysia really need High Speed Rail?

At the China High Speed Railway Symposium, China’s public relation event to lobby for the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail project, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) Chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that some 14 companies have been invited to present their views and ideas to Malaysia and Singapore for the development of the HSR.

At each Parliamentary sitting since June 2013, I have asked the Government to reveal the feasibility studies for KL-Singapore High Speed Rail.

In the recent Parliamentary sitting, I told Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri during the debate on Prime Minister’s Department’s budget, that the Government must not enter into the High Speed Rail project without revealing the feasibility studies and without a national debate on the nation’s priorities.

Pakatan Harapan stated our objection to the HSR in the Alternative Budget for 2016 as the Government fails to demostrate that the HSR is a national priority and there is no feasibility study detailing its financial viability.

The national priority should be to expand railways to cater for both freight and passengers.

Spending huge sums on the passenger – only HSR may not generate sufficient returns on investment, which eventually would lead to government bailouts, as seen in HSR in some countries.

Expansion of railway, on the contrary, would allow for more industries to use railway instead of highways for the transport of goods, which would reduce the need to build roads, reduce traffic congestions, and reduce the carbon footprint.

I call on SPAD and the cannibalised Transport Ministry to release the feasiblity study report of the HSR and to initiate a national debate on whether to build the HSR.

It is unfortunate that the Transport Ministry has no role to play in public transport. It is about time that the Transport Ministry be given the task to plan the long-term and overall transport arrangments which must include the management of and investments in public transport.

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