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Japan is looking to expand their High Speed Rail in other countries

Japan High Speed Rail
The Yomiuri Shimbun- Japan News - Japanese firms are desperately trying to stage a comeback in the competition for overseas high-speed rail projects, which are seen as a pillar of the government’s plan to increase infrastructure exports.

After losing out to rival China in Indonesia, domestic railway companies are ramping up efforts to win bids in the United States and Singapore. The true value of Japanese firms’ technological and sales abilities is being questioned.

The International High-Speed Rail Association (IHRA), which counts the Japan Railway companies, carriage manufacturers, trading companies and others among its members, hosted a conference in late November in Tokyo that was attended by people involved in high-speed rail from Europe, the United States and Asia.

“No other system is equal to Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains in terms of safety, punctuality and environmental performance,” IHRA Chairman Masafumi Shukuri told the attendees in a speech.

A public-private fund, the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development, decided in November to invest $40 million (about ¥4.9 billion) in a Texas-based company planning a local high-speed rail project. The aim of the investment is to have Central Japan Railway Co.’s Shinkansen system adopted for the project. The planned line would connect Dallas and Houston, about 400 kilometers apart, in about 90 minutes.

The project is expected to cost about $15 billion (about ¥1.8 trillion) to build. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation is planning to finance half the construction costs, which would provide financial support for the bid.

In the competition over high-speed rail projects, the government was shocked when China won a bid for an Indonesian project. To stanch the bleeding, Liberal Democratic Party General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Nov. 23.

“The Shinkansen isn’t all we have. We will gladly respond to any infrastructure improvements or other future needs you may have,” Nikai reportedly told Widodo.

 Indonesia is planning an urban railway system for Jakarta, which the government hopes could be a second chance for Japan.

During a visit to Malaysia on Nov. 21, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced planned changes to the government’s official development assistance program.

These included no longer requiring that governments guarantee to cover 100 percent of any losses for certain projects, and that the application process, which currently takes about three years, could be shortened for important projects to as little as 18 months. The idea behind this is to provide support for projects by smoothing funding.