KUALA LUMPUR: The prime minister’s special envoy to renegotiate the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) contract with China says cargo load will be more profitable than passenger ridership as the project will provide a land bridge that will boost freight transactions and cut travel time significantly between Port Klang and the Kuantan port.
Daim Zainuddin said cargo load is expected to contribute 70% to revenue compared to 30% from passenger traffic. He attributed this to the shorter travel time and greater reliability as a mode of transport.
“The ECRL provides a land bridge between Port Klang and Kuantan port, shortening travel time between the two ports by some 30 hours.
“As a result, the ECRL will provide a faster alternative transfer of goods between the two ports compared with the much longer sea route,” he told Bernama in an interview yesterday.
He was responding to questions on the supplementary agreement signed last week between project owner Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and its joint venture partner China Communications Construction Company Ltd to manage, operate and maintain the ECRL rail network which will be built at a considerably lower cost.
Daim, who finalised the ECRL deal after nine months of negotiations, said the rail link would also connect Kuantan and Port Klang with the various industrial hubs, seaports, tourism nodes, and east coast state capitals.
It will also stimulate new growth along the ECRL corridor, which will require reliable transport for the transfer of goods and passengers, he said.
“We are expecting the cargo load to be the main contributor to the ECRL, but as development along the rail line and in the east coast increases, passenger load will also automatically increase,” he said.
“We are talking about people visiting their relatives and about tourists being provided with an alternative mode of transport to the east coast.
“In that sense, we have to ensure that ticket prices are kept affordable,” he said.
To boost passenger traffic, he said the Pakatan Harapan government had decided to re-route the ECRL so that it passes through Putrajaya Sentral.
Noting that this would connect the east coast to the federal government’s administrative centre, he said “this is important for businesses”.
“It will also help increase passenger load for the ECRL,” Daim said, adding that the rail link will now pass through five states – Selangor-Federal Territory-Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan – under the renegotiated agreement as opposed to the original deal which covered only four states.
That means that more people stand to benefit from the spillover benefits of the ECRL project, he said.