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High-speed rail benefits both Singapore and Malaysia

Last week, Singapore and Malaysia inked a historic agreement to build a high-speed rail line to get trains running between Jurong East and Kuala Lumpur by Dec 31, 2026.

By formalising the line's technical and security details as well as its regulatory, financing and procurement frameworks, among other things, the agreement paves the way for both sides to move from the planning phase to implementation.

The legally-binding deal also signals a clear commitment from both governments to ensuring that the mega project is executed smoothly and is successful.

This is critical, for the multi-billion dollar project is highly complex and will span several terms of government on both sides.

Given that an MRT line here typically takes at least 10 years to plan and build, the window to complete the high-speed rail line is a fairly narrow one.

The next few years are crucial, as contracts have to be drafted and tendered out, while the detailed alignment of the 350km line has to be finalised.

Any delays will impact the construction timeline, and overall completion.

But if done right, the line - billed as a "game changer" - promises tremendous upside for both countries.

It will transform the way people travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur by land for business or leisure, reducing a drive that lasts more than four hours to a 90-minute express train ride.

If done right, the line — billed as a “game changer” — promises tremendous upside for both countries.

Coupled with the cross-border MRT link between Singapore and Johor Baru, the high-speed rail would ease traffic congestion at the borders of both countries.

The line would also bring about significant economic benefits. Businesses could take advantage of the improved accessibility, while areas around the high-speed rail stations will become more attractive to developers.

Land values are likely to go up as a result.

The bilateral agreement is also indicative of the increasingly warm ties between both countries, and as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last week: "It gives both sides a big stake in keeping relations stable and warm."

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