Najib Abdul Razak said the East Coast Railway Line (ECRL) project proves the determination of the government to undertake major and significant changes in Kelantan and the other states on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
The caretaker prime minister said the ECRL would change the economic landscape and life of the people in Kelantan and all the states on the east coast in various fields.
"If we want a particular region to develop we must link the region to all areas in the country.
“Transportation that links one region to the other areas will bring very significant changes,” he said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the ECRL project at the Kelantan state level in Tunjong, Kota Bharu today.
Also present were caretaker International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, caretaker Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd chairperson Irwan Serigar Abdullah and China Communications Construction ECRL Sdn Bhd executive managing director Bai Yinzhan.
The RM55 billion ECRL project that would involve a 688-kilometre long route links Port Klang, Selangor with Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
The project also involves 28 stations that offer passenger and cargo rail services and is expected to be ready in June 2024.
"In the United States, the west side area had developed because of the availability of railway communication, and so were the wild west or cowboy areas such as the ones in California and so on because the pioneers were railway communication.
"The same was also true in the other areas in the world, where efficient railway services that were modern and dependable had been injected in the development of a particular region,” the caretaker prime minister said.
Najib said in the context of Kelantan, the existence of the ECRL would speed up travelling time especially from Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur and vice versa.
"If the journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu previously took eight hours, after the completion of the ECRL later the journey will only take four hours at the speed of 160km per hour,” he said.
"During the festive season, it would take 16 hours to reach Kota Bharu so we have an alternative where the use of the ECRL service would only take four hours,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that in the aspect of occupation, it was anticipated that at the peak of the project, 80,000 job opportunities were directly or indirectly provided with 70 percent of the total for locals (Malaysian citizens).
“Recently, we appointed 237 local consultants, contractors and sub-contractors, and with a total of RM1.48 billion worth of jobs to be implemented, the project will become the catalyst of change and we have undertaken studies which show that the economic growth of the states in the east coast would be 1.5 percent higher,” he said.
He was confident that the concern of parents, particularly those whose children had to migrate to the other states to look for jobs, would be addressed following the existence of the ECRL which would bring progress to the various sectors of the economy and investment.
In this regard, Najib criticised certain groups who wanted the ECRL project to be revoked which would certainly be to the detriment of Malaysians, especially the workers, sub-contractors and others involved.
The caretaker prime minister also emphasised that he was not making promises to the people but had instead implemented, or was in the process of implementing or would implement the pledges made.
"It was only during my time that Kelantan was given attention, although the state was under the opposition I was truly concerned compared to him who was not concerned and Kelantan was punished for 22 years,” Najib added.