PETALING JAYA: Construction of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) from Kota Baru to Port Klang will now run at full steam as Selangor has agreed for the rail line to pass through the northern part of the state, as originally planned.
Known as Section C, the 170km (excluding spur lines) stretch will run from Temerloh to Bentong, Pahang and under parts of the Main Range before emerging near Gombak, where the line will then pass Serendah and Kapar on its way to Port Klang.
The original alignment of Section C was proposed in 2016, but was reviewed by the then Pakatan Harapan government when it took federal control after the 2018 general election.
At the time, the Pakatan government wanted the line to go southwards after Temerloh, going through parts of Negri Sembilan such as Kuala Klawang, before passing near Nilai and through Putrajaya before ending at Pulau Indah.
The view then was that the rerouted Section C, also known as the Southern Alignment, costs less, and results in less environmental impact, with the route through Hulu Langat-Sepang-Westport chosen because it would open more new economic areas for development.
Selangor also argued that the Southern Alignment skips the water catchment areas around the Selangor River Basin, other than leaving it with fewer land acquisition issues.
Subsequently, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said that the Cabinet meeting on Sept 2, 2020 had approved ECRL’s return to its original Northern Alignment.
This alignment would comprise new ECRL stations at Temerloh, Bentong, ITT Gombak (passenger transfer to or from the Kelana Jaya LRT line), Serendah Baru (interchange for KTM line), Puncak Alam (provisional), Kapar (provisional), and Jalan Kastam (interchange with KTM line), before branching into both North Port and West Ports on dual gauge tracks that allow both ECRL and KTMB rolling stocks to share the same right-of-way.
Estimated at RM50bil, the 665km ECRL reached a 25% progress rate as at October, after construction began in August 2017, and is expected to be completed by December 2026, with some portions ahead of schedule, while the rest largely remain on schedule.
On Nov 2, Dr Wee told Parliament that having Section C of ECRL pass through northern Selangor will solve the congestion experience on the KTM line from the north of the peninsula to Port Klang.
This stretch from Padang Besar via Butterworth to Port Klang sees heavy use by cargo trains, which is the only portion of KTM’s operations that is profitable.
However, cargo trains typically have to give way to passenger train operations such as the ETS from Gemas to Padang Besar, along with regional Komuter trains, thus creating scheduling bottlenecks for cargo trains.
Dr Wee said the Transport Ministry had held many engagement sessions involving 17 departments and agencies from the Selangor government, and 12 agencies and departments from Putrajaya since June last year, to refine the proposed technical solutions on social and environmental issues raised by Selangor over the Northern Alignment for Section C.
Dr Wee said then that in general, all agencies and departments at the state and federal levels had no objections against the proposal to revert the ECRL to its original alignment, and had warned that should an agreement with Selangor fail to materialise by end of this year, Malaysia will potentially face late claims form the main contractor, China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC-ECRL), at the rate of RM1.25mil a day.
To formalise the Northern Alignment for Section C, a supplementary agreement will be signed today between the project owner, a Finance Ministry-owned entity called Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), and CCCC-ECRL.
The signing is expected to be witnessed by Dr Wee, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing, CCCC president Wang Haihuai, and Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari.