The state govt knows better how it could leverage and optimise the ECRL services for economic development
by AFIQ AZIZ / graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD
THE Selangor government is still not convinced with the current federal administration’s proposal to revert the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) to its original planned route that had been labelled as costly.
The state government had agreed to the current planned route that runs through the state after it was modified during the last federal administration to save cost, but the current government wants the route to be reverted to the original plan, citing investment already made.
Selangor executive councillorin charge of public transport Ng Sze Han said the state is not fully convinced of the need to revert alignment to the original route.
He said Selangor and federal officials have met several times last year, but the state government has not agreed to any changes and is not expected to change its mind.
This is despite Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong’s advocating for the route change.
The ECRL, the country’s coastal railway link designed to carry some eight million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo annually by 2040, has had its alignment changed twice under two federal administrations.
In 2019, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government revised the ECRL route with a reduction of RM21.5 billion, from its original cost of RM65.5 billion.
The revision mainly affected Section C of the package, which runs from Pahang to Port Klang, Selangor.
The realignment was to avoid the water catchment area in Gombak, Selangor, and saw the route directed south into areas that include Negri Sembilan.
However, the political realignment at Putrajaya in March last year had caused another change of the ECRL project, as the Perikatan Nasional government wanted to reinstate its original plan of Section C, which involves costly construction of the 17.8km-long Genting Tunnel in Bentong, Pahang.
Ng said Selangor knows better how the state could leverage and optimise the ECRL services for its economic development.
“For example, the development of Selangor is towards the south. Kuala Langat and Sepang are the new investment hubs for foreign direct investment, and several world-renowned paper mills will be opening soon there,” Ng told The Malaysian Reserve in his text reply.
He said the state is also prepared in case the federal administration tries to invoke the Land Acquisition Act 1960, which would allow the government to take over land for redevelopment.
“It must be noted that land approval matters and its execution fall under the state jurisdiction.”
On March 7, the ECRL developer Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) announced in a Bernama report that the project, which is expected to be completed in 2026, has reached a progress rate of nearly 21%.
However, MRL chairman Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali said although the percentage indicated that the project is ahead of schedule, it still has “a long way to go” due to issues like land acquisition and site clearance.
He acknowledged that the most critical issue includes the approval from state governments on Section C from Temerloh to Port Klang.
“We are still awaiting approval from the Selangor state government. If we get the approval, then the entire ECRL project will be able to be implemented (immediately) and we will ensure that it does not fall behind schedule,” he said in the report.
Under the PH administration, the proposed Section C alignment comprises a mainline with a length of 143.1km and a spurline measuring 41.5km, with five-passenger/freight stations and one future station.
A railway expert is of the view that the industry would benefit more through the southern alignment, as more industrial areas like Nilai and Seremban can enjoy ECRL cargo services.
“Inland ports can be built in between the stations at the area for cargo activities. It makes more sense.
“In terms of cost, it definitely will be cheaper as no major tunnelling is involved and it would not disrupt the main town and green zones of Gombak and Bentong,” the expert said, adding that an amicable solution between the government is needed or it would risk delaying the ECRL project.
Meanwhile, Wee announced that the ECRL has been further enhanced by extending the original alignment of 640 km to 665km, encompassing the original 30km which is 24km from Jalan Kastam (Port Klang) to West Port, and 6km from Jalan Kastam to the North Port.
As the primary objective of constructing ECRL is as a cargo route which is 70% cargo and 30% passengers, Wee said the ministry will need to ensure there are returns of the investment through the train optimisation.
Among others, the extension will comprise a new land bridge in the area, Bernama reported last week.