ECRL contractor optimistic that project will be revived

PETALING JAYA: It has been two weeks since Putrajaya shelved the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, but Chinese contractor China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) is confident that bilateral negotiations will bring the project back on track.

In a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), CCCC overseas executive vice-president Li Qingwei said the company believed that both Putrajaya and the Malaysian firms involved would negotiate, given Malaysia’s economic development needs and the prospect of improving the people’s livelihoods.

“Since the project involves both nations’ economic and trading interests, we believe China and Malaysia will resolve the issue in a friendly manner,” he was quoted as saying at a press conference in Hong Kong.

The ECRL was one of the mega projects under review by the Pakatan Harapan government which swept into power in the May 9 general election.

On Aug 21, Mahathir said the rail project along with a natural gas pipeline project in Sabah would be cancelled for now as the country could not afford them.

Mahathir, who made the announcement while on an official visit to China, said he had relayed the matter to Beijing, which understood the problems faced by Malaysia.

“I believe China itself does not want to see Malaysia become a bankrupt country,” he said.

CCCC said at the time that more than 1,800 of the 2,250 people hired for the ECRL project had been laid off since the suspension.

According to the SCMP report, the company needs to get the ECRL contract rolling again to meet its 2018 target of growing full-year new bookings by 8%.

The report said new orders for CCCC in the first half of the year grew by only 1.7%, of which 28% of contract values came from outside China.

Mahathir has repeatedly vowed to discuss what he calls “unfair” Chinese infrastructure deals authorised by the Barisan Nasional government under his predecessor Najib Razak.