ECRL joint venture with China won’t pose security threat, says MRL

Malaysia says the joint operations arrangement does not involve ceding any form of ownership of ECRL to China Communications Construction Company Ltd. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will own 100% of all East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) assets and the joint venture with China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) will not pose any threat to national security, says Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL).

The government will fully own all the assets through MRL from the beginning to the end of the joint management, operation and maintenance (MOM) arrangement, it said in a statement today to clarify misleading information on the ECRL project.

MRL said the 50:50 joint venture (JV) between it and CCCC would not pose any threat to national security as the JV company would be under Malaysia’s management.

“The directors of the JV company and the appointment of the chief executive officer will be at the discretion of MRL,” it said.

MRL said one must distinguish between ownership and joint operations.

“The joint operations arrangement does not in any way involve ceding any form of ownership of the ECRL to CCCC.

“It is purely about the sharing of MOM costs plus the exchange of technical know-how and expertise between CCCC and MRL,” it said.

Former prime minister Najib Razak was reported as saying it was not right for a Chinese company to be involved in the ECRL project by managing 50% of the rail system as it involved national security.

MRL also described as misleading claims that the revised ECRL project would cause travel time from Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur to increase from five to six hours.

It said it would only take about four hours.

“The distance from Kota Bharu to Putrajaya Sentral under the new Southern Alignment is 550km covering 17 stations, whereas the distance from Kota Bharu to Gombak under the previous alignment was 525km covering 18 stations.

“With a travel speed of 160kph, the additional 25km adds a time of less than 10 minutes to the journey, which will be further reduced due to the reduction of one stop,” it said.

MRL also clarified the claim that the cost reduction for the ECRL project was due to the new alignment negating the need for an 18km tunnel passing through the Titiwangsa range and the reduction in the number of stations.

It said the entire cost of the original project would have been RM65.5 billion, including the purported “RM10 billion tunnel” (Genting tunnel) through the Titiwangsa range.

“If we were to dispense with the Genting tunnel, the cost would still have been at RM55.5 billion.

“With the new alignment, the number of stations is now 20. The further reduction in cost from RM55.5 billion to RM44 billion would not have solely been due to four stations being omitted,” it added.