Transport hub at Forest City?

KUALA LUMPUR: Is Forest City in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, preparing to reserve land to create space for the infrastructure required for the West Line of the light rail transit system and Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (KL-Singapore HSR)?

Country Garden, the biggest private developer in China, announced this week that several transportation-related infrastructure projects are being developed in the surrounding areas in an attempt to improve accessibility to and from Forest City.

Fang Fang, the company's general manager of brand, sales, and marketing for Malaysia and Singapore, said the LRT West Line and the KL-Singapore HSR are two of the projects, with plans to establish stations in Forest City.

Market insiders said there is a plan to align the KL-Singapore HSR line so that Forest City is used as the border crossing to Singapore.

"We firmly believe that Forest City will host stations for both the LRT and the KL-SG HSR rail lines. There could be a spur line, given the short distance to Singapore.

"Forest City could also have a transportation hub akin to the KL Sentral transport hub in Brickfields," the insider told Business Times.

In an interview with Singapore's Straits Times, Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar (now Yang di-Pertuan Agong) was cited as saying that he wanted the KL-Singapore HSR to be revived and realigned so that the border crossing is via Forest City.

The King said the rail project could be funded privately, with the government giving the contractor a 30-year lease to operate the line before taking over the project.

Seven consortiums have submitted concept proposals to develop the KL-Singapore HSR.

Business Times reported that three of the seven consortiums are led by Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun-controlled Berjaya Group, YTL Group, and China Railway.

Berjaya Rail Sdn Bhd (BRail), a 70 per cent subsidiary of Berjaya Land Bhd, reportedly teamed up with IJM Construction Sdn Bhd, Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB), and Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) to bid for the project.

MRCB is the master developer of the multi-billion-ringgit KL Sentral, which houses the Express Rail Link (ERL) station for the KLIA Ekspres and the KLIA Transit, KTM Komuter, LRT, and monorail. 

The development includes hotels, office towers, serviced apartments, and shopping malls

Samuel Tan, executive director of KGV International, said that unlike the KL Sentral transport hub, which is a city model, the Forest City transport hub should be a touristy model with an emphasis on drawing tourists and attracting MICE activities that are able to draw in the appropriate audiences to visit, play, and shop on the island.

"We anticipate the hosting of many conventions in Forest City. Events, dining, and lodging will be more affordable thanks to the lower ringgit than in Singapore and the surrounding nations. An additional draw is the championship golf course.

"We expect the duty-free island status and the occupied service apartments will both benefit from the shopping mall's ability to thrive once more," he told Business Times.

Tan said there should be a link from Forest City to the Second Link to make international travel to Singapore and Indonesia simple.

Furthermore, he said ferry services from Tuas or Sentosa Island should be made available.

"In a similar vein, ferry services ought to be linked to Indonesia's numerous islands. This will result in the SIJORI model, which was proposed several decades ago, coming to pass. Better yet, domestic travel will be made easier if the ferries can hold cars," he said.

Additionally, he said more international flights should be offered to Senai International Airport to draw people to Forest City.

HSR station in Forest City

Developers of Forest City have lobbied the government to place an HSR station in the mega property project just west of the Second Link crossing between Singapore and Malaysia to boost the development.

The HSR will be a major catalyst to increase southbound human traffic, not only from the population between Malaysia and Singapore but also from international travellers due to the potential connectivity between the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang and Changi Airport.

Johor will have the longest HSR alignment since the state will be traversed by more than half of the proposed 330–350 km track.

The three proposed stations for the KL-SG HSR line are to be located in Muar, Batu Pahat, and Iskandar Puteri, with Forest City being an add-on.

Regarding the three LRT lines that are being considered, Ikea Tebrau, Senai, and either Legoland or Forest City could be the locations of their respective terminal stations.

According to the insider, if a station for the KL-Singapore HSR line is going to be built in Forest City, it makes more sense to locate the LRT station there.

The US$100 billion (about RM473 billion) Forest City project, nearly thrice the size of Sentosa Island, was launched by Country Garden in 2016. 

Country Garden owns 60 per cent of Forest City. Its Johor partner is Esplanade Danga 88.

The project, when completed in 2035, is billed as a paradise with white-sand beaches and turtles. It will span 7,000 acres on four reclaimed islands and house 700,000 people.

Country Garden reportedly invested RM20 billion in the project over the course of seven years and houses fewer than 10,000 people, or about 1.0 per cent of its target.

Meanwhile, Fang Fang said in the statement that Country Garden will be upgrading the facilities in Forest City in preparation for the launch of the Special Financial Zone (SFZ).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced in August 2023 the setting up of a SFZ zone in Forest City to boost investment, growth, and economic activities in Johor.

The memorandum of understanding for this was inked on Jan 11, 2024, between the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore.

Fang Fang said the upgrading work is crucial to ensuring that Forest City will attract new investors via the SFZ initiative.

Other upgrades in Forest City include the construction of a checkpoint for the Royal Malaysian Customs Department to relocate the existing checkpoint to a new place.

The construction of the new inspection centre, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, will ensure smooth inspections by related agencies while also enhancing enforcement in the area, she said.

She said Forest City is also upgrading the Internet network services and completing various uses of the latest technology to ensure that it becomes one of the best financial zones in the region.

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