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Asia Minute: Another Rail Delay—Not That One

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Opacitatic
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A project deadline for a major urban rail project has been delayed—again. But this has nothing to do with Honolulu’s rail. This construction would connect two major urban centers in Southeast Asia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Late this week, companies bidding on one of Southeast Asia’s biggest rail projects got more time.

The governments of Malaysia and Singapore are working together to link Kuala Lumpur with Singapore by high speed rail. It’s been almost a year and a half since the two governments agreed on the outlines of the venture and signed a memo of understanding.

The high-profile project is getting a lot of international attention—in part because many countries want to develop high speed rail as an exportable product. And in a phrase that may sound familiar to Honolulu residents, the promise of “transit-oriented development” offers the opportunity for further construction along the route.

Earlier this year, Japan’s ambassador to Malaysia said his country could offer a “truly holistic” vision for the project.

Eight Chinese companies are working together on an alternate proposal—involving groups from the Export-Import Bank of China to the China Railway Corporation.

South Korea, Germany, France and Canada are also putting together bids.

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Singaporean and Malaysian officials say the delay in the process won’t hold back the opening of the rail link—planned for late 2026.

Right now, the trip from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore takes about four hours. Once the high speed rail is completed, travel time will be cut by more than half to about 90 minutes.

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