ECRL to award civil packages in April

By MARK RAO / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project will begin rolling out civil packages worth several billion ringgit, which are set to benefit 30% of the local industry players, this April.

The Ministry of Finance Inc unit, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), completed the pre-qualification exercise in October, which drew 1,118 submissions from engineering and construction firms in the country.

China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), which acts as the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning contractor for the 688km railway, will begin the tender process for its civil packages in April.

“Excluding tunnel and specialist works, a minimum of 30% of the contracts will go to local players,” MRL head of construction Noor Azlan Salleh said during a base-camp visit to one of eight stations in Bentong yesterday, of the entire rail link that connects the East Coast to the Klang Valley.

“As a rule of thumb, 60% of ECRL works will go to infrastructure, while 40% will go to the systems side.”

The civil packages to be awarded for the RM55 billion rail project comes from the infrastructure portion.

CCCC will abide by the mandate of awarding 30% of the civil works to local firms and thus far, has engaged eight of its subsidiaries under the advanced work packages. It can choose to exceed this figure if it deems it necessary.

Noor Azlan said two key challenges remain in the ECRL project, such as procuring a tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the tunnel infrastructure, as well as navigating the wet areas in North Terengganu and South Kelantan.

“The delivery of the TBM is very challenging due to the sheer size, scale and weight of this equipment,” he said.

“We are looking into how to firm up our delivery route to the project sites and are targeting to receive the TBM by November this year.”

The machine to be used to carve out the the longest rail tunnel in Malaysia at 16.37km — the Genting twin bore tunnel from Bentong to Gombak — will come from China.

The remaining 21.62km in tunnel infrastructure to be drilled and blasted will be provided for the locals as the authorities do not permit foreign firms to conduct blasting activities.

The rail link with 128km of viaducts and bridges to be built, mostly in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu, will also run on elevated tracks to bypass flood areas and rivers.

Based on the submissions from contractors, the ECRL project is anticipated to have close to 18,000 to 20,000 workers at its peak level of activity.

Malaysians will make up 70% of this workforce, while the remainding 30% will come from China.

The rail line aims to reduce travel time between Kota Baru, Kelantan, and the Integrated Transport Terminal in Gombak, Selangor, from seven hours to four as part of the 11th Malaysia Plan to boost public transport infrastructure in rural areas.

The project will create some 80,000 jobs and is set to bring a host of economic benefits to the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with gross domestic product expected to grow by 1.5% in the three states.

To date, 85% of the financing for the RM55 billion project, including a soft loan at 3.25% from the Export-Import Bank of China, has been secured.

The railway is slated for commercial operations mid of 2024.