PETALING JAYA: Claims that the ownership of assets and lands along the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) alignment will be transferred to China are completely unfounded, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
The Transport Minister said certain quarters have been spreading lies on the ECRL project and its ownership status as part of a "malicious propaganda".
"Speculation that the ownership of assets and lands along the ECRL alignment will be transferred to China is completely unfounded.
"The ECRL assets are 100% owned by the government of Malaysia through Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) and the lands along the ECRL alignment are non-transferable railway reserves.
"The repayment plan to the government-owned Bank of China for the project also does not involve the transfer of ECRL assets or lands.
"It must be stressed here that MRL is the owner of the ECRL project and assets, while China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) is the main contractor.
"I see these allegations as malicious propaganda by certain parties, with a similar narrative to the criticisms of the Forest City development project and the Proton-Geely joint venture.
"Their narrative is that foreign countries are controlling Malaysian assets and jeopardising national sovereignty," he said, adding that the claims also tarnish Malaysia's image globally.
"Worst of all, it can erode the confidence of foreign investors in investing in Malaysia," said Dr Wee in a video posted on Facebook.
In the video, Dr Wee addressed several allegations made towards the ECRL project.
He said in the MOU signed between MRL and CCCC, the agreement was for a joint venture company with 50:50 ownership to be established and appointed as operator of ECRL.
He added that the MOU states that 80% of the operating profit will be owned by MRL, and the balance goes to CCCC. Both however will equally bear any operating losses.
"This proves the confidence of China in the prospects of ECRL's operations which will guarantee quality and sustainability of its service," he said.
Dr Wee said the MRL is actively formulating a long-term plan to generate revenue which can sufficiently cover the company's operating costs.
"Any profits from MRL's train operations and side businesses will be used to repay part of ECRL's project loan liabilities.
"The benefits generated from the ECRL project will spearhead rapid economic development in east coast states with the availability of rail services. The cost of freight transportation to and from the east coast will also decrease up to 50%.
"All this will increase the competitiveness of east coast states and create new industries, which in turn will generate revenue through government taxes. This will then be returned to the people," said Dr Wee, adding that the opposition's criticism of the project means they are denying the east coast states a chance to enjoy the project's benefits.
On the proposed fares for ECRL, Dr Wee said it is under the jurisdiction of the Land Public Transport Agency (Apad) and assures it would be reasonable and "people-friendly".
On the decision to make ECRL a single-track railway, Dr Wee pointed out that this was agreed in 2019 during the Pakatan Harapan administration.
"For the record, the construction consultant of the ECRL project has concluded that a single-track network is adequate for at least the first 10 years of operation, based on the projection of cargo and passenger traffic.
"The construction of nine ‘passing loops’ along the ECRL alignment will also enable the operation of two-way trains between the east coast and the Klang Valley," said Dr Wee.