SINGAPORE (June 11): In the bad old days, when Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines dominated flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, a return plane ticket between the two cities could cost some $400. For a flight that takes less than an hour, it felt like a rip-off. So, I would often take a bus, which was less salubrious but a lot cheaper and offered a variety of conveniently located pick-up and drop-off points. And, if I ever stumped up the money for a flight, I would do everything I could to ensure that I boarded a dual-aisle plane operated by SIA rather than a single-aisle plane belonging to MAS, because it felt as if I was getting better value for what I was paying. Through it all, I longed for a frequent and comfortable highspeed train.
However, by the time plans for a high-speed rail link between Singapore and KL got underway, everything had changed. SIA and MAS were no longer the only players on the KL-Singapore route, and plane fares had collapsed. These days, budget carriers such as Jetstar offer return tickets to KL that are well under $100. Still, I initially thought the HSR could be useful to me, depending on what the train fares would be, and taking into account the time and expense of travelling to and from the airports.
Then, I realised the HSR would not actually take me directly into the CBDs of Singapore and KL. In fact, Jurong East, where the Singapore terminus for the HSR was to be located, is not that much nearer to the CBD than Changi Airport. So, when Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad began making noises about cancelling the RM110 billion ($37 billion) HSR project, I was not terribly disappointed.