Saturday, December 30, 2023

Grounded Ambitions: The Hilarious Proposition of Free Flights Over High-Speed Rails

Grounded Ambitions: The Hilarious Proposition of Free Flights Over High-Speed Rails

30 Dec 2023 • 8:00 AM MYT

by Mihar Dias
A behaviourist by training, a consultant and executive coach by profession

Image of high speed rail. Credit: Unsplash @Abadia

By Mihar Dias (C) Copyright December 2023

Well, well, the genius proposal to replace a high-speed rail with free flights!

Because who needs convenient, efficient transportation when you can score a complimentary boarding pass to Singapore?

I can already see the economic marvel – free flights will surely transform Malaysia into a utopian paradise, right?

Tony Pua, the visionary economist, believes in saving the government money by showering Malaysians with free flights.

Forget about a high-speed rail that could revolutionize travel and boost local economies – we all know economic benefits pale in comparison to the thrill of scoring a zero-cost ticket.

And, of course, the overlooked Penang undersea tunnel project, because what's more vital than adding another link to a place that already boasts two bridges? Pua's silence on this groundbreaking venture is truly deafening.

Let's applaud the strategic thinking here – why bother with a 'game changer' HSR when we can navigate the skies for free?

It's not like the HSR could develop areas around its stations or stimulate economic growth. Who needs that when you can have a budget-friendly flight?

In the battle of HSR versus free flights, the skies seem limitless, but alas, our aspirations for groundbreaking infrastructure may be grounded. Good thing Pua is no longer an adviser – because who needs sound advice when you can fly for free, right?

Meanwhile, on a more serious note, the implications of favouring free flights over a high-speed rail project are as whimsical as the proposal itself.

Embracing complimentary air travel may offer fleeting excitement, but the long-term consequences could be less than ideal.

• Economic Development: Opting for free flights dismisses the potential economic growth that a high-speed rail could bring. The HSR has the capacity to stimulate local economies along its route, creating jobs and fostering development. Free flights, on the other hand, may boost tourism but lack the transformative impact on regional growth.

• Infrastructure Investment: A high-speed rail is a substantial infrastructure investment with long-term benefits. Choosing free flights may seem cost-effective initially, but the implications for future transportation needs and infrastructure development could be overlooked. Sustainable investments in transportation are essential for a nation's progress.

• Environmental Impact: Air travel, even if free, carries significant environmental costs. The carbon footprint of flights and their contribution to climate change cannot be ignored. High-speed rail, being a more sustainable mode of transportation, aligns better with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

• Equity and Accessibility: Free flights may benefit those who frequently travel to Singapore, but what about the broader population? High-speed rail provides a more inclusive and accessible mode of transportation for a diverse range of people, connecting cities and regions effectively.

• International Relations: The decision to forgo the high-speed rail project may have implications on international relations, especially with Singapore. Collaborative projects like the HSR contribute to diplomatic ties, and abandoning such initiatives could strain these relationships.

In essence, the whimsical notion of free flights, while amusing, may sacrifice long-term benefits for short-term gains.

The implications extend beyond the immediate cost considerations, touching on economic development, environmental sustainability, and international collaboration.


  1. A lot of people understood the message Tony Put was making - not a literal one that Mihar Dias was portraying.
    The figurative message was that the Business Case for the HSR is mighty thin. If we are not careful, it may amount to pouring money down the drain - or giving away free flights.
    You really want to invest effectively in transport, do it with systems that benefit the masses, not the Elite.

    1. No any other country has achieved more in absolute poverty eradication than China.

      Rail accessibility in many remote rural locations is one of the key attribute & HSR is the necessary integrator in that process that benefit the poverty stricken rural Chinese.

      Thus, well planned & fully committed administration must lead the plan. Together with a team of result orientated contractors the aimed goal if spilling wealth in remote areas can he achieved.

      Otherwise, a corrupted administrator teamed with a lousy contractor - such as the Jap in Vietnam & India HSR projects - will NEVER bring any good to the people at large BUT the leaching money grabbers.