by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE revised alignment of the East Coast Rail Link project (ECRL 3.0) is estimated to cost RM50 billion, lower than the original construction cost of the previous ECRL that was launched in 2017.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (picture) said the viability of ECRL 3.0 is enhanced with the incorporation of the Serendah Bypass infrastructure to the project’s scope, with the estimated cost still lower than the construction cost of ECRL 2.0 proposed by the Pakatan Harapan government through Southern Alignment.
He added that even though the construction cost of ECRL 2.0 was around RM44 billion, that is excluding the allocation quantity, the cost of neglecting ECRL 1.0 and the estimated cost of Serendah Bypass of RM5 billion.
The minister said the government could now make savings in terms of infrastructure expenditure by offering the best proposal to implement two rail projects at one price.
When asked whether Malaysia could afford the construction cost, Wee said ECRL was structured as a domestic investment financed by a soft loan of 85% from China through the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM), with the rest being funded through sukuk issuance.
He noted that only RM2.5 billion is funded by the government and it has been approved by the Ministry of Finance for the next six years.
“But this amount should not have to be paid now, it may be paid later.
“This is because the ECRL project has funding from EXIM and sukuk. These are the funding terms of the project from the beginning,” he explained.
The Serendah Bypass, Wee said, will be able to attract more cargo to ECRL and once it commences operations, it will offer cargo services from the east coast states and Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd.
“Through the Serendah Bypass project, which is now included in the ECRL 3.0, the problem of cargo service congestion faced by KTMB across Kuala Lumpur can be solved.
“The ‘Northern Alignment’ also provides added value where it enhances the connectivity of cargo rails to active cargo hubs, as well as enhances the attractiveness for cargo capacity transfer for the existing rail network,” Wee said in a press conference yesterday.
The proposed Northern Alignment, Wee said, will also have a minimal environmental impact, as it will not affect the Gombak Quartz Ridge.
The design for the rail line will be elevated and will traverse through an existing road to cross the quartz ridge.
Additionally, he said the Northern Alignment will not intrude the Batu Dam area, which is one of the main dams that supply water to the people of Selangor and the Klang Valley.
Wee added that the reimplementation of the Northern Alignment would give ECRL an advantage into a viable infrastructure, in line with the project’s revenue ratio of 70% cargo and 30% passenger.
He said studies in the rail industry foresee ECRL to carry 26.12 million tonnes of cargo for the first year of operation through the Northern Alignment, which is higher than the estimated cargo load for the Southern Alignment.
Wee also hoped that the newly revised ECRL would provide more organised cargo and passenger transport services between the east coast and west coast of Peninsular Malaysia while attracting investment along the alignment corridor and generating more businesses and job opportunities.
Although the ECRL is now changed to the original route (the Northern Alignment), Wee said the project can still be completed within seven years and commence operations in 2027.
Currently, the construction of ECRL is progressing at 21.39% as of March 2021.
“The construction work is in full swing and is concentrated in Section A (Kota Baru-Dungun) and Section B (Dungun-Mentakab).
“The estimated passenger consumption of ECRL 3.0 is 5.03 million passengers by 2027, while the estimated cargo consumption is at 26.12 million tonnes,” he said.
“Indirectly, the Northern Alignment is very much an advantage to Selangor, especially with the construction of more stations, as much as five stations in Selangor.
“Besides that, the focus of economic overflow will also be felt in the areas of Gombak, Serendah and Port Klang,” Wee said further.
Read our previous report here