Cancellation of ECRL comes as a shock to workers


All quiet: Workers at the ECRL site in Bentong, Pahang, are waiting for an announcement from their management after Dr Mahathir cancelled the project .

BENTONG: While some workers involved in the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) are in shock over the scrapping of the project as announced by the Prime Minister, some areas have yet to see any work despite the launch of the 688km line about a year ago.

Several construction workers said they were left in the dark over the matter.

“Right now, we don’t know what the actual status of the project is.

“We are still waiting for an announcement from the top management,” a senior construction worker told The Star on condition of anonymity.

Another construction worker also expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the ECRL project consisted mainly of Malaysian workers.

“Workers from China comprised 18% to 20% of the staff,” he said.

A security guard at the Bentong ECRL project site said the workers’ quarters were already deserted a month ago.

In July, Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia reported that the fallout had already seen half of the workforce, mostly Malaysians, being retrenched.

A source from the Malaysian Rail Link (MRL), the project owner of ECRL, confirmed that the retrenchment did indeed take place.

“The China Communications and Constructions Company (CCCC) started layoffs a month ago when the project was suspended.

“Half of them are already retrenched and the Chinese workers were told to leave,” said the highly placed source.

Top officials in the MRL are said to be shocked by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement as it was understood that they were in discussion with the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) and the Transport and Finance Ministries to come up with several options to scale down construction costs.

“The MRL has paid more than RM10bil to the main contractor, the China Communications and Con­struc­tions Company and there is a claim of RM9bil for work done.

“So it will be quite a waste because the figure to compensate them is quite high,” he said.

The project was launched on Aug 9, 2017, and scheduled for completion in 2024.

In Kuantan, at the site in KotaSAS where the project was launched with much fanfare, all that remains is an empty swathe of land.

Besides the ongoing construction to build the new Pahang administrative centre nearby, it was all quiet at the site where former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak performed the ground-breaking ceremony.

A security guard at the site said no actual rail construction had been carried out since the launch.

The guard, who declined to be named, said there were no workers from China or an ECRL office located at the site.

He was surprised when told of Dr Mahathir’s announcement.

“But then again, there was never any railway construction here. So, there’s nothing to stop,” he said.

A large signboard near the site stated that the KotaSAS Central station would open in 2021.

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