BEIJING: It is confirmed – Malaysia has managed to bring down the construction cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project by RM21.5bil, which is almost a third of the original cost.
The new price is set at RM44bil now, down 32.8% from the previous RM66bil.
Tun Daim Zainuddin, who led the negotiations with China, said the latest cost estimate was far more manageable for the government.
“It will also require a smaller loan from Exim Bank, which will further reduce the interest to be paid,” he told Malaysian journalists at the Malaysian Embassy here yesterday.
With the new price tag, the construction cost for the project is now at RM68mil per km, against RM98mil per km originally.
Earlier yesterday, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd signed a supplementary agreement to pave the way for the resumption of the suspended project.
The agreement also saw slight changes to the route from Kota Baru in Kelantan to Port Klang in Selangor, with the length cut by 40km to 648km.
“It will still be double-tracking,” said Daim, who is the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.
The realigned route will see the rail track diverted to Negri Sembilan from Mentakab in Pahang, bypassing Bentong in Pahang and Gombak in Selangor as planned earlier.
“It will start in Kota Baru, then to Mentakab, Jelebu and Kuala Klawang in Negri Sembilan, continue on to Bangi, Kajang, Putrajaya and end in Port Klang,” he said, without elaborating on the changes.
He said construction would commerce as soon as possible with the new date of completion reset to 2026, a two-year delay from the project planned originally.
Daim, who is also chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, added that it had been agreed that 40% of the sub-contractors for the project would be Malaysians.
Negotiations on the loan and interest rate were still ongoing, he said.
“Now that the cost is lower, the loan will also be lower,” he said.
Daim declined to reveal more details, saying that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will address a press conference on the ECRL on Monday.
China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said his government was glad to see the issue being settled through friendly negotiation.
He said China and Malaysia were good neighbours and partners, which viewed each other’s friendship with importance.
Lu Kang said China hoped to see the project recommence soon.
In Putrajaya, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed the latest details involving the ECRL.
“The signing was achieved after months of negotiations between the companies involved as well as the governments of Malaysia and China.
“This reduction (in cost) will surely benefit Malaysia and lighten the burden of the country’s financial position,” it said in a statement yesterday.
The PMO said the supplementary agreement covered the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning aspects of the ECRL.
It confirmed that Dr Mahathir would address the media at 11am on Monday.
The original 688km ECRL proposal comprised Phase 1, stretching from the Klang Valley to Kuantan.
Phase 2 is from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu and Phase 3 connecting Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru and Tumpat.
The Pakatan Harapan government suspended the ECRL project after winning the general election last year.