Malaysia plans to spend $50 billion over the next seven years on the development of a network to include both urban rapid transit and high-speed rail, and global construction firms are ready to help. A 150-kilometer urban mass rapid-transit system is already under construction, with a slated 2017 opening. A high-speed-rail system linking Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, planned for a 2020 launch, will go out to bid in late 2014. “We expect this to be a very transparent, open bidding system in which companies from all over the world are free to participate,” stated Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in July.

The battle for business has started. Malaysia’s MMC Corp. teamed with Gamuda Bhd to oversee construction of the $7-billion rapid-transit line and is looking to team with Chinese and European system integrators for the high-speed-rail line. YTL Corp. Bhd may team with Spanish bullet-train makers Talgo or CAF. Other potential joint ventures include the UEM Group Bhd and Ara Group with Spanish Talgo as well as Global Rail with Canada’s Bombardier and China Railway Group.

General Electric Co. has proposed its rail signaling solution, GE Tempo—a new system that purports to reduce costs of ongoing maintenance and operations—for the mass-rapid-transit and high-speed-rail projects. Last year, Hong Kong rail operator MTR Corp. and GE Transportation signed an agreement to assess the feasibility of applying the GE Tempo system to meet MTR’s operating requirements.

Technical studies under the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), regulator for public and freight transport in Malaysia, are under way for the $12.7-billion, 330-kilometer standard-gauge rail alignment from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, via Johor Bahru. In addition, Thales and the Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) signed a memorandum of understanding on July 29 as part of a public-private initiative to establish a so-called Rail Center of Excellence (RCOE).

"Thales…has expressed genuine interest in the long-term development of Malaysia's rail industry," says Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman, president and CEO of MIGHT. Other content providers for RCOE include the Spanish Railways Foundation for the main line and high-speed rail and Metro Madrid for the urban rail. RCOE also will house and integrate activities, such as research and development, small and medium-size enterprises and original-equipment-manufacturer production facilities.