KINIGUIDE The East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) came under scrutiny by opposition representatives long before Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak made the official announcement.
The rail line aims to connect the less developed east coast to the more developed west coast of Malaysia, which is otherwise difficult to reach due to the Titiwangsa mountain range standing in between the two regions.
What is the ECRL all about and how did it become so controversial? Malaysiakini explains the issues in this latest instalment of KiniGuide.
What is the ECRL?
The East Coast Rail Line in its current incarnation is a planned double-tracked, electrified rail line from Tumpat, Kelantan to Port Klang, Selangor.
The route would cut across the Titiwangsa mountain range, and will connect among others, the Gombak Integrated Transport Terminal, Bentong, Mentakab, Kuantan, Kemaman, Kerteh, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Baru.
Reports vary on whether it is 688km long, 620km long, or 600km long.
According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of the Economic Planning Unit Abdul Rahman Dahlan - who had cited the 688km figure - the project would include building multiple bridges totalling 110km in length, and multiple tunnels totalling 50km in length.
The project is slated to begin early next year and be completed by 2022, with RM55 billion often cited as the total cost.
How long is it and how much does it actually cost?
Najib cited an estimate of RM55 billion for 600km in his 2017 Budget speech on Oct 21.
Various news reports about the deal as it was being signed in China early this month quoted a figure of RM55 billion for 620km.
However, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai was quoted by Sinchew Daily saying that the RM55 billion refers to the value of the Financing Framework Agreement for the project, not the construction cost.
Meanwhile, The Star quoted Liow on Nov 1 saying that the project is estimated to cost "a similar amount" to the RM55 billion loan to be provided by China.
China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) - the main contractor for the project – however quoted a RM46 billion figure for the project on its website.
Abdul Rahman, who cited the 688km figure for ECRL’s length, said the RM46 billion is only for the Gombak-Kuantan-Tumpat portion of the line.
The Port Klang-Gombak portion had yet to be finalised, he said...