Najib: Under revised ECRL deal, KL-KB travel time almost as long as driving

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak speaks to reporters outside the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 16, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak speaks to reporters outside the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex April 16, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The revised East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) route will make rail travel from here to Kota Baru in Kelantan almost as long as car journeys, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

The former prime minister said the omission of the Titiwangsa Range tunnel through Bentong in the updated ECRL plans will add another hour or two to the trip.

“In other words, if we travel by car [from KL to Kota Baru], it takes seven hours... so if the [ECRL trip duration] is almost close to the time it takes to travel by car, there is no advantage in using the ECRL,” Najib told the press. 

He told reporters after the third day of his RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial that his administration’s plan to reduce the travel time to four hours on ECRL was now dashed.

"With the new (ECRL) route, it omits the Bentong route and Titiwangsa Range tunnel, meaning that our objective to establish a Kuala Lumpur-Kota Baru journey in only four hours cannot be achieved," the former prime minister said. 

He explained that passengers from Kuala Lumpur would have to use the station hub in Putrajaya, thus travelling south to get onboard the ECRL before heading north, and this will add another hour or two to the trip. 

“In other words, if we travel by car [from KL to Kota Baru], it takes seven hours... so if the [ECRL trip duration] is almost close to the time it takes to travel by car, there is no advantage in using the ECRL,” Najib told the press. 

He told reporters after the third day of his RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial that his administration’s plan to reduce the travel time to four hours on ECRL was now dashed.

However, he did not provide any details to back his argument.

He also commented on China Communications Construction Company’s alleged role to manage, operate and maintain the ECRL in a joint-venture with Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd.

“The proposal for China entitities to be involved in ECRL’s management is inappropriate because this is the country’s internal transportation,” Najib said.

He asserted that Malaysians have the capabilities to manage the entire rail system, as they have been training professionals for this particular role before this.

He cited Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, which received a contract from the Saudi Arabia government to manage the metro system between Mina and Muzdalifah, among others.

An ECRL that involves foreign management could involve security issues where knowledge of the country’s internal details might be exposed to foreigners, he said.

Najib suggested that foreigners be limited to roles such main contractors and technical advisors.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Friday announced that the construction cost for Phases 1 and 2 of the ECRL has now been now reduced to RM44 billion, a reduction of RM21.5 billion from its original cost of RM65.5 billion.

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