Development along ECRL line should link east and west coast, say experts

The ECRL is expected to help bridge the development gap between the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: An economist has advised the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) to look into linking the development corridors in the east and west coast following news that the government agency has set up a team to promote development along the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

Yeah Kim Leng, who heads Sunway University’s economic studies programme, said the rail link would help reduce transportation fees for bulk goods, especially palm oil which Putrajaya is heavily marketing.

Industries such as construction, which relies on materials such as cement, iron and steel, could also take advantage of this facility, he added.

“This, in turn, will lead to more competitive prices for such commodities. Due to the reduced time to transfer these goods, it could make our products more attractive,” he said.

Yeah Kim Leng.

Mida said on Wednesday that it had established a team to promote the development of industrial parks, infrastructure, logistics hubs and transit-oriented developments along the route of the ECRL, which was recently revived by the government.

It said the team would facilitate, evaluate and review the implementation of economic accelerator projects along the ECRL corridor.

Praising Mida’s plan for a dedicated team, Yeah said the agency could also look into integrating its plans with that of the East Coast Economic Region, an initiative established during Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure as prime minister.

In March, the government via the East Coast Economic Region Development Council said it aimed to attract an additional RM17 billion and realise RM15 billion in private investments, creating another 31,000 job opportunities for locals.

Yeah suggested that Mida integrate the two concepts as they have similar objectives in pushing for regional economic development.

“With a rail link, they could take advantage of the logistical means and develop hubs with new industry clusters, including tourism, that leverage on the east coast endowments and economic advantages.”

Rosli Azad Khan.

Transport expert Rosli Azad Khan agreed, saying Mida should look into linking the east coast with the south, notably the Klang Valley.

This way, he said, Mida could divert the movement of cargo from Port Klang towards the south. He added that it is impossible to transport containers and bulk cargo from Port Klang using the current railway network.

“Now, it has to go through KL Sentral,” he said, referring to the country’s largest transit hub.

“This stretch of the railway network is overused with commuter trains and passenger trains. If you channel all the traffic to KL Sentral, it gets choked.”

He said if Mida could link Port Klang with the ECRL, it would reduce the burden on the KTM network, which is used to ferry cargo. This would be a massive improvement in terms of cargo movement for the rest of the country, he added.

He urged Mida to maximise the role of the ECRL and to take on those that cannot be handled by KTM.

Nazari Ismail.

He added that using the ECRL to transport cargo could help cover the cost of the rail project.

However, Nazari Ismail, a professor of economics at Universiti Malaya, cautioned that such development of industrial parks would most likely require more government expenditure.

He acknowledged that it would generate economic activity but said it would likely see Putrajaya’s debts increase as well, as the government would have to take further loans to stimulate the economy which, in turn, would burden the people.

“The government must find ways to make sure that all further expenditure related to developing the industrial parks, infrastructure and logistics hubs will be financed by the private sector,” he said.