KUANTAN: It's all systems go for the construction of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this was yet another historic infrastructure project for the people of Malaysia.
"The ECRL is a high-impact project that will seamlessly link the Klang Valley with the states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
"The construction of this 668km rail link is in line with the Government's initiative for an efficient national infrastructure facility as well as to connect townships and upgrade public transport in the rural areas of the east coast," Najib said at the groundbreaking ceremony of the ECRL project here on Wednesday.
Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsular had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and small rail lines that were woefully inadequate.
"Over the years, the number of people traversing between the east coast and the west kept on growing whilst the development of public transport infrastructure to match this growth did not take place.
"As a result, congestion became a problem and remains so until today where on festive occasions in particular, the drive on the roads can take three times longer than usual," he said.
Najib said ECRL was a game-changer for Malaysia as it will significantly cut travel time.
The rail journey from Gombak to Kota Baru is expected to take less than four hours as compared to the average seven hours by road or 12 hours or more during festive seasons, Najib said.
He added that the project would also set the tone for an economic spin-off effect and positive social impact for the east coast states.
China state councillor Wang Yong said the ECRL was another milestone project that promotes development and regional connectivity.
He said it was a fine example of economic cooperation between two countries and would drive the prosperity of Malaysia.
The ECRL will be an electric railway line crossing Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Selangor.
With 12 passenger stations, three freight stations and seven combined passenger and freight stations, the railway is expected to increase the gross domestic product of the east coast states by 1.5%.
China's state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of the RM55bil project.