KUALA LUMPUR (April 5): The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), which is going to be reverted to the original alignment that was approved during the Barisan Nasional administration, is now estimated to cost RM50 billion, according to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
Speaking at a media conference in Putrajaya today, the minister said the Cabinet approved the reversion of the project to its original alignment on Sept 2 last year.
Wee said the projected cost of the original alignment, which includes the Serendah by-pass, is also lower than the estimated construction cost of the alignment proposed and given the nod by the previous Pakatan Harapan government – or the ECRL 2.0 – which passes through the southern alignment.
“Although the implementation of the ECRL will now revert to the original alignment, which is the northern alignment, the construction of the ECRL project can still be completed within seven years, [with] operations to commence in 2027.
“The Ministry of Transport (MoT) is very optimistic that the implementation of the northern alignment will continue to make the ECRL a catalyst for national infrastructure that will help connect cities in the East Coast states and the Klang Valley, as well as help upgrade the public transportation system in rural areas,” he said.
Wee said although the ECRL 2.0 was priced lower at RM44 billion as announced by the former Council of Eminent Persons, Tun Daim Zainuddin, in 2019, the cost, however, did not include the construction and provisional quantity, as well as the abandonment cost.
Meanwhile, the ministry highlighted the original alignment will see the ECRL traverse from Mentakab to Port Klang (Section C) via Bentong, Gombak and Serendah, as compared to the southern alignment via Negeri Sembilan.
The alignment will also see the construction of a 16km long double-bore Genting Tunnel from Bentong to Gombak and a 14km long single-bore Serendah Tunnel from Gombak to Serendah
This reversion to the original alignment – now dubbed the ECRL 3.0 version – involves an estimated length of 201km for Section C (including 32.4km spur line), while the ECRL 2.0 for Section C has a length of 185.5km (including 41.5km spur line).
With the changes, the alignment from Kota Bahru to Port Klang will now have a total distance of 665km, the minister said.
“MoT, which supervises the implementation of the ECRL, had closely examined the northern alignment and found that it will enhance the viability of the ECRL project and provide further economic, environmental and social benefit,” he stressed.
The Selangor government, however, has been maintaining its stance in choosing the southern alignment for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), saying it would open more new economic areas, apart from avoiding disruption to water catchment areas around the Selangor River Basin.
To this, Wee said he hoped the Selangor government will cooperate with Putrajaya, as all procedures have been observed.
“In Aug 13 last year, during the National Fiscal Planning Council (Majlis Perancangan Fiskal Negara), which was chaired by the PM, MB Selangor was there. The meeting resolved that a cabinet paper needs to be presented to cabinet members for approval on the Section C (Mentakab to Port Klang),” Wee recounted.
Separately, MoT added that the northern alignment is expected to draw some 5.03 million passengers in its first year of service, as compared to 4.07 million passengers via the southern alignment, based on research.
“The travelling time to the federal capital will also be reduced, as the rail journey from Kota Bharu to ITT Gombak will only take four hours as compared to the average of seven hours by road or up to 12 hours during festive season,” the ministry said.
As of March 2021, the ministry highlighted that the ECRL construction has progressed to 21.39% completion.
“Construction work is in full swing and it's concentrated in Section A (Kota Bharu – Dungun) and Section B (Dungun – Mentakab).
“It is estimated that more than 300 work locations covering almost the entire alignment for Sections A and B will commence by year-end, involving earthworks, bridge construction works, as well as tunnel works which will drive the construction of the ECRL into its peak period,” it said.