While the government is renegotiating the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) contract, it would be good to include and consider more participation by local contractors if the project takes off again, said MCA vice-president Ti Lian Ker.
“The ECRL is a project for Malaysians and with the review, we should seize the opportunity to have more local participation and content,” he said.
The new government should examine how Malaysians, at large, can benefit from the new ECRL arrangement, in addition to cost savings that can be derived, Ti said on the decision by the government to renegotiate the ECRL project.
Late last month, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said no final decision has been made on the ECRL project.
“At present, no final decision has been made, some decisions were made, but now we have to find a better solution,” he told Bernama.
Asked to confirm if the project had not been called off, he said: “We are still negotiating.”
“With the renegotiations, it is timely to re-examine how Malaysia can gain from this deal, especially when Malaysia has many rail companies which can do the job at probably a (much) lower cost.
“In this way, Malaysia can save on global currency outflow, create business opportunities and generate employment, domestically. The trickle-down effect would be tremendous,” he said.
Ti (photo) noted that there were many highly qualified local rail contractors with good track record of their involvement in Malaysia’s domestic rail projects.
“We should include Malaysian content and consider giving locals the opportunity with ECRL 2.0,” he said, adding that many of them have been involved in projects where the complexity was parallel to various components within the ECRL.
Ti also opined that it was not only equally important for local contractors to gain further exposure to the rail business, but for Malaysia to have its own sustainable railway companies.
Malaysia’s rail service was identified as a major people mover to boost public transport and “it is not an alien industry for domestic contractors.”
From the end of the 20th century, Malaysian contractors have been involved in railway construction. The KLIA Express and KLIA Transit commenced operations in 2002.
Meanwhile, within the Klang Valley, many greenfield projects ranging from the Light Rail Transit (LRT) to the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) were implemented.
To further improve Klang Valley’s public transportation infrastructure, the Klang Valley Double Track project, which began in 2016, saw infrastructure and system upgrades to ensure safe, reliable and comfortable train services. This contributed to Kuala Lumpur’s image as a world-class city built by local contractors.
“We should identify those local contractors who performed in the past. This is nationalism. Our very own contractors building our very own ECRL with minimal foreign participation. The return of the 'Malaysia Boleh' spirit,” suggested Ti.
Notable local contractors include YTL Construction, Sunway, Gamuda Bhd, MMC, Dhaya Maju Infrastruktur and WCT.
YTL Construction undertook the construction and completion of train stations and the civil works portion of Malaysia’s first high-speed rail service connecting the KL International Airport (KLIA) to the Kuala Lumpur city centre.
The link comprises a 57km standard gauge rail line with a top design speed of 176km per hour and a total journey time of only 28 minutes from the city centre to KLIA.
Sunway is the only nationwide contractor with experience in building the LRT, MRT and the nation’s first elevated Bus Rapid Transit.
Gamuda Bhd undertook both local and foreign projects including the Sg Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya and Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT; electrified double track project, as well as, the Kaohsiung Metropolitan MRT which was completed in 2008.
Dhaya Maju Infrastructure (Asia) is a Malaysian Bumiputera engineering, property and infrastructure company.
Registered as a 'PKK Class A' Bumiputera and CIDB G7 contractor, the company had considerable experience in the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of railway electrification system.
Dhaya Maju was awarded the contract for the Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT) phase 1 which commenced in the third quarter of 2016 and subsequently phase 2 which was awarded in early 2018.
The WCT Group is involved in various packages in LRT3 and MRT2, while MMC is the project delivery partner and underground works package contractor for the 51 km Klang Valley MRT project (Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line).
MMC also constructed the Bukit Berapit twin-bore tunnel, Southeast Asia's longest rail tunnel, as part of the 329km Ipoh-Padang Besar Electrified Double Tracking Project.
UEM Builders, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, UEM Construction Sdn Bhd, took over from DRB Hicom and led the electrified double-tracking Rawang-Ipoh rail project.
“Malaysia has announced that it aims to become Asean's rail manufacturing hub. If Malaysia can market its railway construction expertise together with the train cabs it manufactures, Malaysia can be a formidable rail exporting country,” Ti said.
Currently, Malaysia has the capacity to assemble 200 train cars per year for the local market, with the potential to double manufacturing capacity.
“We are ahead of our neighbouring countries in the rail business and industry.
“Why not provide those practitioners with the facilities and opportunity to progress further?
“We have always been friendly and give priority to our local contractors in the past, which has enabled them to grow and expand beyond the shores and the ECRL, if it continues, provides another opportunity to further boost local expertise in the rail industry,” he concluded.