Doesn’t make sense to reroute ECRL to Negeri Sembilan, says expert

PETALING JAYA: A transport expert has rubbished plans to reroute the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) through Negeri Sembilan, saying it does not make sense as the project is meant to serve as a land bridge for freight cargo between the Kuantan Port in Pahang and Port Klang in Selangor.

Veteran consultant Goh Bok Yen said the current route would be best if Putrajaya sticks to this objective.

“If we want to look into a freight line to serve industries in Negeri Sembilan, we should not be looking at realigning the ECRL,” he told FMT.

Instead, he said, the government should proceed with the existing plan to develop a double-track coastal line connecting a freight terminal in Serendah to Port Klang, Senawang and Port Dickson.

“It would make more sense to build a spur line from Gombak to Serendah than to realign the ECRL to pass through Negeri Sembilan.”

He added that the proposed coastal line would be a catalyst for the development of rail and port-based industrial areas.

As for passengers, Goh said they could access the city centre by switching to the LRT at Gombak. Once in the city centre, he said, they could travel to Negeri Sembilan via the KTM.

He was responding to Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook, who recently said the ECRL would be rerouted to benefit Negeri Sembilan if the project continues.

Loke, speaking at a ceramah on the campaign trail in Rantau, said Putrajaya wanted to focus on development in Negeri Sembilan.

But Goh, who has 30 years of consulting experience in urban-rural transportation, said if the government wished to divert the ECRL from its current route, it must have “a very good reason to do so”.

“Until now, there is no such reason,” he added.

“When you plan for a mega project of this scale, the planning of the route complements long-term plans pertaining to land use and economic development along the route.”

He said a high-speed rail would make more sense than a freight line in southern Malaysia, particularly in Negeri Sembilan where there are long-term plans for the development of residential and education-based projects.

Another expert, Rosli Azad Khan, dismissed Loke’s remarks as “political talk” for campaigning purposes in Rantau, where the seventh by-election since last year’s general election will be held this Saturday.

“There is no real value in re-activating the ECRL as it was considered a non-viable project to begin with,” he said.

Rosli, who has over 40 years of experience in consulting, added that Putrajaya should come clean on the motives for the ECRL and the terms of its agreement.

“This infrastructure is not needed for the amount of money it costs.

“Whether Negeri Sembilan will benefit or not, it is not relevant, especially to the voters in Rantau.”