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Clear timetable sought for completion of Kunming-Singapore rail link

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Malaysia has called for a clear timetable for the completion of the rail network that will link Kunming with Singapore, a project that has been ongoing since 1994.

Yesterday Malaysian Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat told the rail network's 10th Special Working Group Meeting in Putrajaya, according to Malaysian media reports.

The 5,382 kilometer (3,344 mile) rail network will connect Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with Kunming and other cities in Yunnan. The main obstacle to getting the network up and running is the existence of around 550 kilometers of gaps between rail lines around the region. According to Ong:

"The countries where such missing links are located have completed feasibility studies for these stretches and construction has been completed in certain parts. So, we now need a timetable for the entire project."

Ong said that despite concerns about rising costs of construction materials, Malaysia was not going to pressure poorer countries in the region – ie Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – to meet the generally hoped-for completion target of 2015, although Malaysia's last gaps will be filled before then.

"It's not 2015 although our double-tracking projects from Seremban to Gemas and Ipoh to Padang Besar will be completed by 2012 and 2013 respectively."

Once completed, the rail network is expected to greatly boost regional trade and tourism as well as contributing to poverty reduction in poorer areas throughout the region. It will also bolster Kunming's position as the primary Chinese logistics hub for trade with Southeast Asian countries.

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