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US Engineering Firm Designs First High-Speed Railway in Southeast Asia


Last month, the US engineering firm AECOM won the bid against five other top consultant firms to conduct the advanced engineering study and design of a high-speed railway (HSR) connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The total investment on the HSR is estimated at $12 to 15 billion, of which S$24.6 million or $17.3 million was awarded to AECOM for the study. The US firm’s bid was not the lowest, but its victory was attributed to the track record of extensive experience in planning and designing quality international infrastructure in China, UK, Hong Kong, and many other countries, as well as domestic infrastructure projects in Singapore. The Los Angeles-based firm currently employs about 87,000 people in 150 countries.

The 220 mile HSR is a legally binding strategic development project between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore to provide fast, seamless travel between the two capitals. The travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, currently over four to six hours via air, car or bus, is expected to be shortened to 90 minutes. Travelers from Jurong East and Kuala Lumpur terminus will be able to clear Customs, Immigration & Quarantine before boarding the train. The HSR, at all stages of implementation, is expected to generate 30,000 job opportunities.

The US business presence is strong in Singapore. There are approximately 3,700 US companies operating in Singapore, of which multinational enterprises alone employ almost 200,000 Singaporean employees. Consulting and transportation & logistics have been listed in the top 10 industries of US operation in Singapore for over 20 years. In 2015, the US was the largest source of foreign direct investment in Singapore at $229 billion, larger than Australia, China and Japan combined.

Anh Pham is a Research intern at the East West Center in Washington, DC and Master's Candidate in International Affairs at the School of International Service, American University.