Review ECRL, upgrade KTM, says expert

PETALING JAYA: A transport expert says any renegotiation of the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project should start with a review of its design, with the railway line limited to being a land bridge between two key ports.

Goh Bok Yen was referring to reports that Putrajaya is looking to renegotiate the project as billions have already been forked out for the nearly 700km line to connect Port Klang in Selangor to Kuantan, Pahang and Pengkalan Kubor, Kelantan.

He told FMT it was more likely that the government would renegotiate the project instead of cancelling it.

“What we need to do is review the entire design and try to optimise it by going back to the project’s fundamental objective to create a land bridge between the Kuantan port and Port Klang.”

Goh said the land bridge was still a good idea as it would help reduce transport time for goods and act as a catalyst for downstream activities along the route for the plantation and logging industries.

However, he cautioned against “over-designing” the ECRL.

“Although the ECRL can be extended from a single track to a double track, the demand is not there yet.”

Goh also said there was no need to extend the ECRL from Kuantan to Pengkalan Kubor as Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd’s Gemas-Tumpat line already served the purpose of transporting both cargo and passengers.

“The Gemas-Tumpat line is an inland route whereas the ECRL is a more coastal line. There isn’t sufficient demand to have two train lines running parallel to each other.”

He said it made more sense to upgrade the Gemas-Tumpat line and make it a double track capable of operating Electric Train Service (ETS) and travelling up to 160km per hour.

Currently, he said, the Gemas-Tumpat line bypassed the Klang Valley, meaning that travellers in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor who wanted to take the train to Tumpat would first have to find their way to Gemas.

“With the ECRL, you can take it from Melawati to Temerloh, where it meets the Gemas-Tumpat line. From there, assuming the KTM is upgraded to an ETS, you would then be able to take it all the way to Tumpat.”

In a recent interview with The Edge Financial Daily, former KTM CEO Sarbini Tijan had said the government should abandon the ECRL and revive the Gemas-Tumpat railway track which was damaged following major floods in 2014.