KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry has denied in Parloiament there has been a downsizing of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, and reiterated that it managed to reduce the cost to RM44bil from its original cost of RM65.5bil.
Its Minister Anthony Loke said the Pakatan Harapan-led government had taken immediate measures to renegotiate the project direction with China and the China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) as the main contractor of the project.
He added that the reduction of RM21.5bil was successfully achieved after a series of review in terms of engineering and the value of all the aspects of the project, through a technical study conducted jointly by the Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and CCCC.
"The main outcome of the study is the realignment of ECRL route between Kota Baru, Kelantan to Dungun, Terengganu and between Mentakab, Pahang to Port Klang, Selangor.
"Only Kota Baru-Wakaf Baru-Pengkalan Kubor routes were not implemented as they did not add huge value to the railway network at the moment.
"However, the Northern Connection Line will be studied in the future.
"The stations that have been cancelled are Bentong, Gombak Utara, ITT Gombak, Telaga Papan, Jelawat, Pengkalan Kubor and Wakaf Bahru.
"The new stations that have been identified along the route are Bangi/Kajang, Putrajaya Sentral, Port Klang, as well as other stations that have been proposed in Selangor and Negri Sembilan.
"So there is no downsizing of scope implemented in the project," he told Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) during Question Time.
Dr Wee had asked the Transport Ministry whether the cost saving of the ECRL project was due to any downsizing, which led to the reduce the construction cost of the project.
Loke said since the initial contract was done government to government (G2G), the government was forced to renegotiate within its limits, to ensure that the project would continue as planned.
"To determine the direction of ECRL, the government had the option to renegotiate or pay the compensation worth RM21.78bil.
"The government decided to go back to the discussion table with the government of China in order to get a better offer from the initial agreement and manage to successfully save a total of RM21.5bil," said Loke.
Earlier, Khoo Phoay Tiong (PH-Kota Melaka) tried to get Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof to strike out Dr Wee's question from being answered in Parliament.
Khoo had raised the objection under Standing Order 23, saying that it had specifically named political secretary of the Finance Minister Tony Pua, in part of his question, which was against the August House rules.
Khoo also argued that Dr Wee's question had exceeded the maximum 40 words allotted per question.
In response, Mohd Ariff allowed the question to proceed, but agreed to strike out the section which referred to Pua.
Asked to comment on the calls to increase the allocation of bumiputra contractors for the ECRL project, Loke said the government had already increased it from 30% to 40%.
"I want to ask all of you, why didn't you ask Barisan Nasional last time when it was just 30% when they were the government.
"We already increase it from 30% to 40%. Ask your new friends why," said Loke.
He also dismissed allegations that the project would sideline opposition-led states.
"The new routes will benefit and spark development in four states and federal territories, including Kelantan and Terengganu," said Loke.