China, Japan and South Korea will be bidding next year to build the 350 km Malaysia-Singapore high speed rail line. In January 2016, China reached a total of 19,000km of high speed rail track. China plans to build at least 11,000 more kilometers of high speed rail by 2020.
The Singapore Straits Times said in an April report that China and Japan were tipped as favorites for the high-speed rail bid. “The real big fight will be between the railway firms from China and Japan,” the report said. According to the report, Malaysia, which bears the majority share of the construction cost, is in favor of a Chinese firm because China’s promise of easy funding for its trains and technology makes it less expensive than Japan’s offer.
A 2014 World Bank analysis estimated that China spends between $17 million and $21 million per kilometer on high-speed rail, compared to $25 million to $39 million in Europe, and as high as $56 million in California. Most lines covered journeys of between two and three hours — what KPMG rail analysts call a “sweet spot” for making them economical to operate.
In May, state-owned China Railway Corporation, the operator of China’s rail network, reported that its debt had grown 10.4 percent in the past year and now exceeded $600 billion; in 2014, roughly two-thirds of that debt was related to high-speed rail construction.
Construction of Thailand’s 873-kilometre-long portion of the railway system was expected to start in mid-2016 and take three years. It would connect to a 417 km line from Vientiane to the northern Lao border and a 520 km line from the Lao border to Kunming. Both the Thai and Lao portions of the route are on hold due to conflicts with the Chinese over funding and land disbursements