Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's announcement that the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project would be cancelled came as a shock to top officials of project owner Malaysia Rail Link (MRL), The Star reported today.
This is because MRL officials had been involved in ongoing discussions with the Council of Eminent Persons and the Transport and Finance Ministries regarding ways to lower the project’s construction costs.
"The MRL has paid more than RM10 billion to the main contractor, the China Communications and Constructions Company (CCCC), and there is a claim of RM9 billion for work done.
"So it will be quite a waste because the figure to compensate them is quite high," an MRL source was quoted as saying.
The report said that some ECRL workers have yet to receive any instructions on the project status from the top management.
"Right now, we don't know what the actual status of the project is.
"We are still waiting for an announcement from the top management," said a senior construction worker who declined to be named.
Another construction worker was reported as saying that the ECRL project was staffed mainly by locals, with workers from China filling up only 18 to 20 percent of the staff.
Yesterday, Mahathir had announced that the ECRL and two China-backed gas pipelines projects are to be cancelled, attributing the steep compensation for the three projects to the previous administration's "historic stupidity."
The 688-km project, which was launched a year ago, has apparently yet to see any work done in some areas.
The Kuantan site, where former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak performed the groundbreaking ceremony, reportedly remains an empty piece of land.
A security guard there told The Star that no actual construction on the rail had been done since the ceremony, and there were no workers even at the site.
Though he was surprised by Mahathir's announcement of the project cancellation, he reportedly said there was no construction that needed to be stopped at the site.
"There was never any railway construction here, so there is nothing to stop," he was quoted as saying.