Minister: It’s misleading to say cost will go down if ECRL scale reduced

PETALING JAYA: Reducing the scale of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project does not mean there will be effective cost savings, says the Transport Minister.

Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the “cost savings” from reducing the scale of the ECRL project could not be fairly compared with cost savings from maintaining the scale of the project at lower cost.

“Reducing the work scope from the original agreement will of course cause the construction cost to go down.

“This is different from the concept of ‘savings’, whereby the cost drops while the scope of work remains the same,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

Business weekly The Edge had previously reported that there was a proposal to revert the ECRL to its original alignment that was proposed during the Barisan Nasional administration.

It also reported that the proposal of the realignment could potentially add a further RM20bil to the cost of the project.

Former transport minister Anthony Loke took to Facebook to say that the original cost of the project was RM65.5bil before the Pakatan Harapan administration changed the alignment, causing the total cost to drop to RM44bil.

Dr Wee however said this was a misleading statement.

“What Pakatan Harapan has been saying – that we can save RM21.5bil when we compare it to the original scope of the ECRL project – is not accurate.

“A change in the work scope and a downsizing in development must be looked into objectively, and to see whether we are comparing apple to apple.

“After reviewing it thoroughly, I can confirm that the unit rate for costing of the construction – be it elevated structures, at-grade structures or tunnels that were being used by the ECRL contractors – did not change or reduce even under the new alignment by Pakatan,” he said.

He said the findings by the Transport Ministry regarding the ECRL alignment would be discussed in the Cabinet meeting before it was finalised.

“Therefore, I hope that all parties will remain patient and not make any assumptions, while we wait for a decision by the Cabinet,” he said.

He added that he would give a more detailed explanation to the rakyat in a media session, and he invited Loke to attend.

Dr Wee also refuted claims by Loke that Pakatan’s alignment proposal would avoid the construction of an 18km-long tunnel cutting into the Titiwangsa Range in Genting.“Why does Loke not reveal that under the supplemental agreement number 5 (SA5), there would still be the construction of other tunnels at Kuala Klawang that would be cutting into the Titiwangsa Range?“In the same SA5, there is a clause to review the quantity of tunnels or bridges up to an additional 41km.

“This inflates the ECRL construction cost to more than RM46bil, and not RM44bil as was announced by Tun Daim Zainuddin,” he said.

He said there were other additional cost not announced to the public, such as the cancellation and delay costs associated with the change in alignment proposed by Pakatan.

“The cost for the realignment of the section from Kota Baru to Dungun, amounting to RM1bil, has already been claimed by the contractors,” he said.

He also said that Pakatan’s proposed alignment from Kota Baru to Rimbayu would be using an electrified train, whereas the alignment from Rimbayu to Port Klang, which is “the last-mile spur line”, would be using a diesel locomotive.

“This is actually not effective planning, instead it will cause defects in the whole ECRL track, whereby its ‘last mile’ will have to switch from the electric locomotive to a diesel locomotive,” he said.

The construction cost and operations of the ECRL, he added, would potentially be further complicated by the construction of a drawbridge to cross Selat Lumut at Port Klang.He said currently Barisan’s proposed alignment from Mentakab-Bentong-Gombak-Serendah-Jalan Kastam-Port Klang was under review and being refined.

A “dual track” system, he said, would be built from Serendah to Port Klang which acts as a bypass in which KTMB cargo trains would not have to pass through Kuala Lumpur, reducing travel time by up to one hour and 45 minutes.

Under Pakatan’s alignment, he said there might be “double handling” of the cargo due to a switch in the electrified train locomotive to a diesel locomotive.

He said Loke did not reveal that Pakatan’s alignment proposal would only be connected to Westports, while Barisan’s alignment would have been connected to Westports and Northport.

He also questioned the viability of having Carey Island being “divided” by the ECRL tracks in the middle, adding that this would stunt the island’s development as it would restrict mobility between parts of the island.

Dr Wee also addressed allegations that Perikatan Nasional was sidelining Negri Sembilan if they were to proceed with the original alignment.

“Negri Sembilan will not be neglected because the High Speed Rail project between Singapore and Malaysia will be revived by the Perikatan Nasional government, and the Klang Valley Double Tracking project phase 2 is also in construction,” he said.

He also rebutted claims by Loke that the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge would be damaged if Pakatan had followed the original alignment.

Dr Wee questioned Loke why he did not look at the options that were set out by the contractors in which the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge would be left untouched.

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