KUALA LUMPUR (May 3): The first tender for the KL-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) project will be called in the final quarter of 2017 for the purpose of setting up an assets company (AssetsCo), said Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.

He said it would be followed by infrastructure tenders in the first quarter of 2018.

“We have completed the initial process of appointing a joint development partner and a reference consultant (earlier this year). So the next stage is the calling of tender by the AssetsCo [at the] end of the year. It is interesting to note that we have a lot of international interest to bid for the infrastructure tenders,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the third HSR Symposium in Malaysia.

The symposium was organised by the Japanese government to share its 52 years of experience in its HSR, also known as the Shinkansen.

The 350-km HSR will connect Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments signed a bilateral agreement to build the rail that is expected to be completed by 2026.

Last July, the respective governments signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the HSR and appoint the AssetsCo to provide and maintain the HSR trains and its associated systems, such as track, power, signalling and telecommunications.

As for the operation of cross-border services, both MyHSR Corp Sdn Bhd, a MoF Inc subsidiary, and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority would be appointed to operate the HSR services.

Asked about the project cost, Syed Hamid said it was too early to disclose while the governments would decide on the best bidder based on its financial package.

“We will look at the most attractive package at best price and something both governments can afford and accept. It is still at early stage now but we will come up with the total cost later,” he said.

He added that each project would need to be done according to budget allocation as the government has a budget cap while the rest is taken on by the companies.

In addition, he noted that foreign bidders are required to ensure a 40% Bumiputera content so that local businesses can also benefit.

Meanwhile, Syed Hamid said the fare pricing for the HSR would not depend on ridership so as to avoid astronomical ticket costs but it would be supported by transit-oriented development (TOD).

“Even in Japan, a bulk of its revenue comes from TOD. Only China can sustain on fare revenue because of high ridership,” he said.