PROPOSALS for the US$2·5bn trans-Asia rail network linking Singapore to Kunming were endorsed by local heads of government at the 4th Asean Summit held on November 25. Feasibility studies for the scheme had been approved by a meeting of Asean Transport Ministers in Brunei in September (RG 11.00 p696).

Malaysia's International Trade & Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz says a Thai-led steering committee has been appointed to develop funding proposals, which could incorporate state grants, loans or bonds. She said the project offers 'significant socio-economic benefits to participating nations', particularly in developing the Mekong basin.

The recommended package includes the construction of four new lines to connect the region's metre-gauge national networks:

  • 48 km from Poipet in Thailand to Sisiphon in Cambodia, costing US$69·1m;
  • 383 km from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City via Loc Ninh, costed at US$621·6m;
  • 585 km connecting Laos and Vietnam, for US$1106m;
  • 263 km to link Thailand and Myanmar at a cost of US$725m.

The Renong - DRB-Hicom consortium which has been managing Malaysian rail operations since August 1997 is due to present proposals this month for the full privatisation of KTM Berhad. However, Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik said at the end of November that the government may decide to 'rethink' the process.