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Asia Minute: Southeast Asian Rail Project Moving Ahead

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A multi-billion dollar rail project has just taken a big step toward completion. But this train is not in Hawai‘i, it’s thousands of miles across the Pacific. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

A drive between two of the most dynamic capitals in Southeast Asia will take about four hours for anyone traveling by car from Singapore to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. If you want to take a train, it’ll take you about five hours.

Ten years from now, that travel time should be knocked down to ninety minutes.

The bullet train between the two capitals has been under discussion for the past three years. But up to now it’s been more of a project of diplomacy than engineering.

This week, the leaders of the two countries signed a formal agreement that puts the deal on a much faster track with a completion deadline of a decade.

While ten years may sound like a long time, it’s actually a relatively tight deadline for a complicated project crossing boundaries and open water. It requires a bridge to go over the Strait of Johor.

Officials of both Singapore and Malaysia say it will transform bilateral business between the neighboring Southeast Asian nations.

And now, an entirely different kind of international diplomatic business enters a new stage.

South Korea, Japan and China are all likely to submit bids to design and build this Southeast Asian rail project. And Singapore’s Straits Times reports that at this point, China is believed to have the inside track.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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