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Yeo to Putrajaya: Tell us exactly how much ECRL will cost

 | October 13, 2017

Damansara Utama assemblywoman voices concern over reports that the project cost may balloon from RM55 billion to RM70 billion.

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PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Yeo Bee Yin wants Putrajaya to come clean on the actual cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, amid reports that it may balloon to up to RM70 billion.

This is some RM40 billion more than the project’s original estimated cost.

In a statement today, the Damansara Utama assemblywoman said that in 2014, Jebasingam Issac John, who is the chief executive officer of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), had said the project would cost around RM30 billion.

The following year, HSS Integrated Sdn Bhd, which completed the project’s feasibility study, estimated the cost of the proposed 545km line to be RM29 billion.

“Last year, with some additional lengths to the route, the government announced the cost at RM55 billion, which was already an approximately 80% increase based on the feasibility study by HSS.

“Now we are looking at the potential further ballooning of cost up to RM70 billion.

“We would like to seek clarification from Putrajaya as to how much exactly the ECRL will cost the Malaysian people,” she said.

Yeo was responding to a report by The Edge financial daily which quoted sources as saying that the current estimate of RM55 billion had yet to factor in several requisite expenses.

These include the double-tracking of the line from Port Klang, Selangor, to Pengkalan Kubor, Kelantan, as well as land acquisition costs.

The sources told The Edge that the revised cost could fall anywhere between RM60 billion and RM70 billion.

“While we welcome the rail infrastructure project in the east coast, we are perplexed at the high price tag,” Yeo said.

She also noted that the ECRL project, which is set to be Malaysia’s most expensive mega infrastructure project ever, had been awarded to a Chinese firm – China Communication Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) – “at an exorbitant price without an open tender”.

Yeo, who has spoken out on the ECRL project before, reiterated concerns that the cost would affect the price of train tickets as well as cargo freight fees.

“The higher the project cost, the more expensive the train tickets and freight fees will be,” she said.

“When the prices of passenger train tickets and cargo transportation are not competitive as a result of bloated project cost, the ECRL will likely become under-utilised and become an expensive white elephant.

“Otherwise, the government needs to subsidise it to keep the prices competitive through taxpayers’ money. Either way, the rakyat will eventually need to pay for it.

“Therefore, we strongly believe that the Malaysian people deserve to know more details on the cost structure of the project.”

Yeo also suggested that Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai hold a dialogue with concerned Malaysians to explain why the ECRL should cost so much.

In August, Prime Minister Najib Razak described the project as a “game changer” for the east coast.

He said it would cut a significant amount of travel time to and from the east coast of the peninsula, and that it would be a catalyst for economic equality between the west and east coast.

However, opposition leaders have panned the project, saying it is designed to fail both financially and economically as Malaysia will eventually have to pay more for it.


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