Review of MRT3 under way

MRT Anthony Loke

PETALING JAYA: A review of the Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 (MRT3) or MRT Circle Line project, which was suspended earlier, is under way and various new funding options, including possibly getting real estate developers and owners to partially fund the project may be explored.

Experts said several models including that of Singapore and Hong Kong’s “Rail plus Property” are being studied to see how the private sector can participate to partly fund the development as the government was not in a position to fully fund MRT3’s development.Consultants have been appointed to find a suitable model and a decision on MRT3 will be made middle of next year.

“The project was suspended primarily because of the cost factor. But we are prepared to review the project, ’’ Transport Minister Anthony Loke (pic) told StarBiz.He said the Finance Ministry had indicated its willingness to discuss the project with his ministry. From the Transport Ministry’s perspective, the MRT3 was important as it will complete the rail network connectivity in the Klang Valley. However, he said the country’s fiscal position will have to be taken into consideration before embarking on the project.

“The review is on the premise that the cost has to be lowered. How it will be lowered is a subject of discussion.

“It will be a new mechanism and a new model of development if ever we proceed with the project to make it cost effective and higher in terms of return on investment, ’’ Loke said without elaborating.

He added that “we hope we can reach a decision by mid-2020, that is six months down the road”.

The 40km MRT3 is the last portion of the MRT lines in the Klang Valley.

It will be a loop largely in the city centre passing through several prominent buildings and shopping areas and, according to the earlier plan, it was to cover areas such as Kerinchi, Jalan Duta, Setiawangsa, Salak Selatan, Pandan Indah and Bandar Malaysia.

Of the 26 stations, 19 are underground and the cost of underground stations are way higher than at ground level. About 60% of the project involves tunnelling works.

Experts believe that for MRT3 to take off there needs to be a public-private partnership where real estate owners and property developers need to work together with the government to develop the train link.

“The study done by the consultants will draft the alignment for certain stations and it will be vastly different from the existing model.

“Often the connections are afterthoughts, but this time around it is during the planning that the locations will be integrated by asking the developers to contribute the construction.

“This is a framework that the new review may be based on and it will identify tangible benefits, and it can be for existing and new property developments, ’’ said a source.

The circle line will pass through several prominent buildings and property developments and having a link will boost property values and boost traffic for shopping malls.

“It is not just alignment but land value capture and we can learn from the Singapore and Hong Kong models. They have set the benchmark, ’’ the source said.

He added that contributions from developers have not been explored in the past, but to help fund the project, that may be the way forward and this can be for existing or new developments.

The developers will have to help partially fund the connection and as seen from the past, the existing MRT has become strong selling points for existing and new property developments along its route.

The government has forked out billions of ringgit to develop the 10 rail lines, including the airport link and BRT servicing the Klang Valley.

A tender for the MRT3 was called at the end of 2017 by Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd to select a turnkey contractor to build and finance, on a turnkey basis, the MRT3. But the outcome was never revealed.

Hong Kong’s entire rail system operates on a self-sustaining basis as it operates on the “Rail plus Property’’ where the government grants the land to the MRT company which then works with property owners to partly fund the development which has resulted in a profitable venture besides helping to keep the fares cheap.

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