ECRL project a game changer for Malaysia

ECRL project a game changer for Malaysia

KUANTAN (Aug 10): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak yesterday described the establishment of the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) as a “game changer” and “mindset changer” for Malaysia as it will significantly cut travel time to and from the east coast of the peninsula.

He said the rail journey from the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) in Gombak, Selangor, to Kota Baru, Kelantan, was expected to be less than four hours compared with the average eight hours — up to 12 hours or more during the festive seasons — thus making the ECRL a comfortable, alternative form of transportation.

“The ECRL project also sets the tone for an economic spin-off effect and positive social impact for the east coast states. It will be a catalyst for economic equality between the west and east coasts as it will stimulate investment, spur commercial activities, create ample jobs, facilitate quality education and boost tourism in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.”

Najib said this in his speech during the ECRL groundbreaking ceremony held at the ECRL KotaSas Central Station project site here yesterday. It was witnessed by, among others, China State Council Vice-Premier Wang Yang, China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) executive director and chairman Liu Qitao, and Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah.

Najib noted that the ECRL, to be built by CCCC, would become the nation’s longest rail project with 688km of rail link. MRL is tasked as the project owner.

He said Malaysia received attractive financing terms for the ECRL, with 85% of the project financing, including a soft loan at 3.25% from China Exim Bank, coming with a moratorium period of seven years, and the balance of 15% to be funded through a sukuk programme managed by local investment banks.

The ECRL alignment would also promote the development of industrial areas and the growing trend of transit-oriented development that would nurture compact residential districts and commercial centres along the rail stations, hence benefiting the major towns designated as main stations for the project, he said.

For example, he said, the ECRL would link key economic industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park and Gambang Halal Park in Pahang, Kertih Biopolymer Park (Terengganu) and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park (Kelantan).

“I would like to emphasise that the ECRL is rakyat-centric. The government has forecast the gross domestic product for the three east coast states to grow by 1.5% at the current rate with the implementation of this project.

“The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by 2030 as the primary transport between the east and west coasts.

“The revenue from the operation of the ECRL is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight,” he said.

The prime minister also described the development of the ECRL as timely with the ongoing expansion of Kuantan Port into a deep-water terminal that would soon be able to cater to larger vessels of up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage or 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit container ships.

Najib also gave his assurance that the government would ensure that the ECRL be completed successfully in 2024 as promised.

“The journey has begun and the ECRL, once completed, will take us quite some distance further towards attaining our national aspirations. Therefore, I seek the mutual support, cooperation, knowledge and expertise of all ECRL stakeholders to ensure a smooth and successful delivery of this rail project,” he said.

Source: The Edge

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