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Line will put pressure on airlines

T&T secures work on Asia high speed rail project

SingaporeProject manager and consultancy Turner & Townsend, which worked on the Edinburgh Tram, has been contracted to work on the 350 kilometres (217 miles) high speed rail line linking Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.

It will operate as a sub-consultant to KPMG after producing a cost model for the economic assessment of the project.

Turner & Townsend’s appointment follows its success with other global rail projects including London Crossrail, Qatar Rail and the Northwest Rail Link in Australia.

The proposed High Speed Rail link will link Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in one and a half hours.

Experts this week said low-cost airlines plying the same route could feel the brunt of the competition, given the proposed similar fare structure, and suffer the same fate as domestic airlines in countries where high-speed railways have been built.

A flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur takes less than an hour. But commuters travelling by high speed rail will spend less time waiting and boarding. The journey takes five hours by road, seven hours by conventional rail services.

Transport analysts said the high-speed rail could give the budget airlines in the region a run for their money. In terms of capacity, the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur flight path is the largest international low cost carrier route in the world with seven airlines operating more than 240 weekly flights in each direction between Singapore Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“(LCCs) are already charging fairly inexpensive rates, leaving little room to readjust their fares any further,” Professor Lee Der-Horng, a National University of Singapore (NUS) transport expert told Channel News Asia.

Mr Brendan Sobie, chief analyst at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in Singapore, added: “LCCs will inevitably need to redirect some of their capacity from KL to other routes. While this is more of a long-term issue, the potential challenge is obvious.”

Associate Professor Michael Li of Nanyang Technological University said that in China, the popularity of its high-speed railway, which in 2013 carried nearly twice as many passengers as domestic airlines, has hurt domestic flights there.

LCCs such as AirAsia, Jetstar and Tigerair fly the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route.

Tigerair said that at the moment, it was hard to quantify the impact of the high-speed rail, “given that it will be ready only in about seven to 10 years”.

Tony FernandesAirAsia is the biggest player on the Singapore-KL flight path with a 23% market share. Chief executive Tony Fernandes (left) said the project will enlarge the travel pie, and this would only be good for the industry.

“It’s hard to say what the impact would be at this point, but I’ve always said that the high-speed railway will be a plus for everyone. It will stimulate economic growth in both markets, making the world smaller, which will ultimately benefit the travel industry as a whole,” said Mr Fernandes owner of Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club.

Duncan Stone, regional managing director at Turner & Townsend, said: “This game-changing project is another feather in our cap in the rail sector.

“In developing a robust cost model we mobilised the knowledge and skills of our global team of experts, who between them have worked on some of the most challenging high speed rail projects across the world.

“The High Speed Rail link will provide efficient transport for the people of Singapore and Malaysia, significantly contributing to the economic growth of both countries.”

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