PETALING JAYA: MCA president Wee Ka Siong has scoffed at Putrajaya’s claim that it has “achieved cost savings” after renegotiating the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
Speaking to FMT, he said it was a deceptive claim because the saving of RM21.5 billion came with a reduction in the scale of the project.
He noted that the length of the track and the number of stations would be reduced and there would be no tunnel from Bentong to Gombak.
“The tunnelling into the Titiwangsa range is very difficult, and that alone would have cost between RM8 and RM10 billion,” he said.
“There is also land acquisition, with the cost depending on the location. For example, the Gombak station, which has been cancelled, is situated in a fully developed area. So the land there is more expensive than in areas further away, like Kuala Klawang.”
He accused the government of downplaying the revised project’s specifications to make it appear as if it had scored a major achievement in getting the cost reduced.
“When you compare apples with apples and there is a reduction in the cost, that is cost saving,” he said. “But when you downsize the specifications of the project, there is no longer a fair comparison.”
He said the cost would have gone down too if the Barisan Nasional government had set lower specifications for the project.
“It is meaningless for anyone to say that Pakatan Harapan (PH) has reduced the cost per km from RM95.5 million to RM68.7 million when there is no basis for comparison.
“If you usually buy a grouper from the market and then one day decide to buy a mackerel, you can’t say you have saved money. They are both fish, but they’re not the same.”
He said the government should freely admit it was downsizing the project.
He noted that PH leaders, when criticising the project as envisioned by the Najib administration, used to claim that its real cost was only RM29 billion. “But now the cost is RM44 billion. Even then, it is due to the reduced scope.”
He said he was not opposed to efforts to save money, but could not stomach attempts to deceive the public.