Cost of ECRL to be 'slightly above RM60 billion'

Sharon Tan

Prime Minister Najib Razak (third from left), Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai (third from right), Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani (second from right) and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan (right) at the ECRL groundbreaking in Kuantan in August. The state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd is undertaking the construction of what will be Malaysia’s longest rail line yet. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 10, 2017.

THE cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will be slightly above RM60 billion instead of the current estimated RM55 billion due to the double tracking of the 688km line, a person familiar with the project told The Malaysian Insight.

The Edge reported yesterday that the amount was expected to balloon to between RM60 billion to RM70 billion as the current figure did not take into account land acquisition costs for the line, which will run from Port Klang in Selangor to Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan.

ECRL’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report described the project as “an electrified single-track railway line built on a double-track formation”.

“This means the infrastructure for double tracking has been in place from the start. However, the construction of a second line, plus the system and signalling, were not included (in the current estimate), hence, that is where the additional cost (comes from),” said the source.

On the need for double tracking, the source said: “Both passenger EMUs and freight locomotive are daily operations, hence the need for it.”

The project, upon completion in 2024, will operate 24/7, connecting both the coasts in Peninsular Malaysia.

There are numerous bridges and viaducts, particularly in Terengganu and Kelantan’s flood-prone areas, that will allow the train to function even during the monsoon season.

“ECRL doesn’t want its schedule to be hampered by bad weather or floods, particularly during the monsoon season,” said the source.

About 16.5% of the entire line will be elevated, involving 80 bridges, some of which will be more than 300m long.

There will also be 19 tunnels, totalling 48.5km, the longest being a 17.8km tunnel through the Titiwangsa mountain range.

Other tunnels will range from 0.65km to 4.96km in length.

The source said ECRL was expected to conduct a fresh EIA as some sections of the alignment had changed.

“The alignment has partially changed, with some stations, like Penarik and Kuala Telemong in Terengganu, removed, while Kerteh has been made a full station instead of a provisional one.

“There will also be two stations in the Kuantan Port city instead of the initial one station,” said the source, adding that more details would be made available later in the year.

The source said the line was not the most expensive, as alleged by some quarters, citing the London Jubilee Line, which cost £3.3billion (RM18.3 billion) for 16km.

“The MRT Sg Buloh-Kajang Line cost RM21 billion for 51km and 31 stations. It works out to RM411 million per km.

“ECRL is a 688km line. The current estimate of RM55 billion also includes stations and rolling stock. I think you can come to your own conclusions.”

The project will require the acquisition of 6,301.99ha of land, of which 46%, or 3,390ha, is privately owned and spread across 8,699 lots.

The acquisitions will be handled by the Department of the Director-General of Lands And Mines of each state involved.

Touted as a game changer for Malaysia, particularly for the peninsula’s east coast, ECRL is expected to reduce travel time from the Integrated Transport Terminal in Gombak, Selangor, to Wakaf Baru, Kelantan, to under four hours, compared with the current eight to 12 hours.

Under the first phase connecting Gombak to Wakaf Baru, there will be 23 stations, according to Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL).

The second phase will connect Gombak to Port Klang, and Wakaf Baru to Pengkalan Kubor.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, during the groundbreaking, had said 30% of the project would see the involvement of Malaysian contractors, although rail players that The Edge spoke to were cautious about the scope of local contractors’ involvement as details remained scarce.

“The viability of ECRL is undisputed. It is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast,” Najib reportedly said.

“The revenue from the operation of ECRL is projected to be obtained through a transport ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.”

According to MRL’s promotional material, each passenger train will be able to carry up to 600 people across eight coaches, while each freight train will comprise 45 wagons and a locomotive that will be able to transport 3,500 tonnes at a time.

It said the alignment, which features a wider track of 1.435m, was geometrically able to handle train speeds of up to 200kph.

The state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd is undertaking the construction of what will be Malaysia’s longest rail line yet.

Some 85% of the current estimated cost of RM55 billion will be funded by Chinese entities, including a soft loan from the Export-Import Bank of China at an interest rate of 3.25% and with a seven-year moratorium on the payment.

The remaining 15% will be funded via a sukuk programme managed by local banks, including Malayan Banking Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd and CIMB Bank Bhd.

At the time of writing, it is unclear how additional funding, after the cost estimates are revised, will be arranged.

While others, such as Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, has operated with a single-track railway before, it carries safety and operational risks as trains going in both directions share the same track.

In addition, a single track requires trains to give way to those heading in the opposite direction to pass, which could cause delays if unexpected incidents arise.

In other words, it is critical to manage operations closely to prevent accidents.

In contrast, double-track lines are costlier, but more efficient as there is a dedicated track for each direction.

An incident that illustrates the risks surrounding single-track operations is the head-on collision between two high-speed trains in Wenzhou, China, in July 2011, where 40 people died and 192 were injured.

One train had caused the derailment of the other due to design flaws and poor management. – October 10, 2017.

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  • ECRL MAKES NO BLOODY SENSE. Single Track trains are TOO SLOW. Its faster to move ANYTIME BY ROAD. THERE IS ALSO NO VOLUME - Without volume cost using ROADS CAN BE CHEAPER. Its not just ECRL will not make money, IT WILL LOSE BOATLOADS OF MONEY..

    Posted 6 years ago by Bigjoe Lam · Reply