Malaysia, Singapore sign pact to build high-speed railway

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, left, chats with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during a signing ceremony of agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Malaysia and Singapore today signed the long-awaited agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, left, chats with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during a signing ceremony of agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Malaysia and Singapore today signed the long-awaited agreement on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia and Singapore signed an agreement Tuesday to build a high-speed railway that would cut travel time between Kuala Lumpur and the city-state to just 90 minutes by 2026.

Currently, it takes at least four hours to travel by car.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsieng Loong, witnessed the signing of the agreement.

Officials said bidding for the 350-kilometer (218-mile) rail project is expected to be called by the end of 2017, with operations slated to begin in 2026. No cost estimates were announced.

The rail line will "transform the way we interact, socialize and do businesses," Lee said at a news conference. "It is a complex project and we are making long-term commitments, but there is political will on both sides. I'm looking to take my first train ride to Putrajaya in 10 years."

Ties between Malaysia and Singapore have been testy since the two countries split in 1965 after a brief union following the end of British colonial rule over what was then called Malaya.

Najib said the two sides are committed to meeting the 2026 deadline.

"This is a commercially viable project," he said. "We do not envisage problems in getting long-term financing."