A major rail project around the Asia Pacific rim will see China and neighbouring countries let the train take the strain as their economies grow.
The first major link of the Pan-Asia railway network has opened and ambitious plans to link China with Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have also been unveiled.
The mammoth task will see factories in southwest China’s Yunnan province have access to scores of ports in countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia rather than transporting the goods to ports in the east of China.
The idea is to connect China, via Vietnam, to the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos.
The first link is 141 kilometres long and in seven years of construction, engineers dug 35 tunnels and built 61 bridges.
The route is mainly intended for fast freight trains travelling at up to 75 mph linking China with new lines going through Thailand and Laos and with Malaysia and Singapore.
In preparation for the upturn in trade, Vietnam has upgraded parts of its railway network especially to the major port of Hai Phong in the north of the country.
Expats and businesses alike are now looking at the potential of what is possible when the railway links up between Singapore and Malaysian capital.
That’s because journey times would no longer be the current eight hours and would be cut to just 90 minutes which may entice expats to commute from Kuala Lumpur to the expensive city of Singapore.
The railway will also enable businesses to move to the cheaper capital and have staff commute to Singapore to work and yet save money at the same time.
Planners say the new line will not be ready until 2020 but already firms, property companies, tourism operators and workers are already looking into possibilities of what fast and cheap commuting would mean to them.
The proposed railway line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will be a 300 km high speed link which will have an impact on the soaring prices of Singapore’s property market.
Analysts are also predicting a drop in air fares between the two locations and point to a similar high speed link between Beijing and Shanghai which saw airlines drop their ticket prices by nearly 20%.
The new railway line is already being estimated to be used daily by 400,000 commuters and it is an attractive proposition to expats looking to exploit opportunities in Singapore without having the expensive relocation.
This comes as Singapore has begun urging its business community to employ more local people and rely less on foreign workers.