Wednesday, 9 August 2017

(NST) PM: ECRL to be both a game-changer and mindset-changer for Malaysia

KUANTAN: The 688-km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is set to be both a game-changer and mindset-changer for Malaysia as it will cut down travel time between the east and west coast.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the ECRL journey from the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) in Gombak, Selangor, to Kota Baru, Kelantan, would be cut down to four hours compared to the current average of eight hours, or even 12 hours during festive seasons.

“As such, the ECRL will provide a faster and more comfortable alternative that will substantially reduce the gap between the east coast and west coast of Peninsular Malaysia," said Najib in his speech prior to the opening of the ECRL project at Bandar Baru Kuantan, here today.

Najib noted that with the ECRL’s slogan of "Connecting Lives, Accelerating Growth", the project sets the tone for an economic spin-off effect and positive social impact for the east coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

He noted that as Malaysia's longest rail project, ECRL will promote development of industrial areas and boost the growing trend of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) that nurtures compact residential districts and commercial centres along the 23 stations.

"A host of towns including Bentong, Mentakab, Maran, Kuantan, Cherating, Chukai, Dungun, Kuala Terengganu, Tok Bali and Kota Bharu, which are designated as ECRL stations, will soon be in for some exciting times," he said with regards to the towns located in the three east coast states which have a combined population of 4.4 million.

Najib said the ECRL will benefit freight transport as it will link key economic and industrial areas of the three east coast states, like the Malaysia-China Kuantan Indusrial Park (MCKIP), Gambang Halal Park, and Tok Bali Bali Integrated Fisheries Park, to both the Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

"The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the ECRL service annually by 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and the west coast," he said, adding that 30 per cent of revenue is projected to be generated by passengers and 70 per cent through freight.

Najib noted that the ECRL has the potential to create an alternative trade route in the southeast region as the new rail line is able to connect ports on the Peninsula's west coast and east coast.

"Regional trade routes that are mainly centred on the busy Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea via Singapore, may leverage on ECRL transportation which can cater for the movement of bulky items in large volumes at a lower cost.

"The ECRL is also expected to increase two-way trade for Malaysia as it will participate in the Pan-Asia Railway Network that enhances the connectivity to the Asean and Eurasia regions," he said.

"The ECRL, together with several mega infrastructure projects such as the MRT and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR), which provides the rakyat with access to new, modern, and efficient public transport facility, will play a key factor in the transformation of Malaysia in our effort to be among the top 20 nations by 2050," he said.

The prime minister said he looked forward to the opening of the ECRL in 2024, and wished the best to Malaysia Rail Link (MRL) Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) in the ambitious undertaking.

CCCC is the contractor for the ECRL project while MRL is the project owner.

Present to witness the ECRL opening were the People's Republic of China Special Envoy Wang Yong, MRL chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob, Terengganu MB Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman, and Pahang MB Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

Also present were China's Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang and CCCC chairman Liu Qitao.