ECRL kicks off first TBM for Genting Tunnel

TBM1 is expected to take approximately between 2½ and 3 years to punch through the 16.39km Genting Tunnel

by ANIS HAZIM / graphic by M ZUKRI

THE East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project under the 50:50 joint venture (JV) project between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) and China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) has kicked off the excavation work for the Genting Tunnel using China-made first tunnel boring machine (TBM1).

At an average excavation capacity of between 400m and 600m per month, TBM1 is expected to take approximately 2½ years to three years to punch through the 16.39km Genting Tunnel.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the TBM1 installation at the Genting Tunnel has been completed and underwent a trial test in April 2022.

“The entrance of Portal 1 in the Genting Tunnel has also been scraped 181m long with a drill and blast method to facilitate the TBM1, which has a diameter of 8.98m to be brought into the designated location,” Wee said at ECRL TBM1 launch today.

The ECRL Genting Tunnel was the first ECRL tunnel to be scrapped using the TBM method compared to the drill and blast method that had been used for existing ECRL tunnels.

“The construction of the Genting Tunnel opened a new phase in the construction of the ECRL project and we are confident that the construction of this rail tunnel will be completed as scheduled,” he said.

With a cost of RM50.27 billion, the ECRL project is scheduled for completion in December 2026, which will involve the construction of an electrified rail network linking the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang with the Klang Valley.

Meanwhile, the ECRL project is expected to re-install the TBM2 machine and carry out a trial test before the end of this year, to carry out the scrapping work on the two portals of the Genting Tunnel.

“We are optimistic that various management and non-management positions will be filled, as well as assuring that local labour requirements will increase up to 70% (approximately 23,000 workers) of the quota by 2023, as construction progresses to peak at that time,” Wee noted.

CCCC VP Sun Ziyu said the company is actively recruiting local talents to join its team of over 8,900 along the alignment from Kota Baru in Kelantan to Port Klang in Selangor.

“Together with 5,663 workers from our local subcontractors, we are pushing ahead in full force in more than 300 work sites while we are expecting to engage more local vendors and encourage more participation, especially from the East Coast,” he noted.

Sun also acknowledged that the construction of the Genting Tunnel is a challenging task as the tunnel passes through several fault lines and chlorite rock pockets.

“However, with our engineering teams’ experience from other similar projects around the world, we are confident in overcoming these challenges,” he added.

For the record, MRL received delivery of two TBM as per schedule in July 2021 from Shanghai-based CCCC Tianhe Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing Co Ltd following Factory Acceptance Test.