ECRL extension, ports' connectivity a significant move — expert
KUALA LUMPUR (March 14): The decision to extend the East Coast Rail Link's (ECRL) original alignment of 640km to 665km is a very significant move as it will be connected to both North Port and West Port, said an expert.
Public transport researcher SM Sabri SM Ismail said without the extension to the ports, ECRL has no direct connection to port at all, hence, all freight cargoes have to stop at Jalan Kastam, then carried by trucks to the ports or transhipped by KTM trains.
"There is a need for additional projects to extend the ECRL from Jalan Kastam to the ports, which seems to be what this new extension does," he told Bernama.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong announced on Tuesday that the additional alignment would encompass the original 30km, which is 24km from Jalan Kastam (Port Klang), to West Port and 6km from Jalan Kastam to the North Port.
Wee said this was the reason why the government had to build a land bridge and optimise the usage of rail, since the primary objective of constructing the ECRL was as a cargo route — 70% cargo and 30% passengers.
"So we need to ensure there are returns," he said.
Wee stressed that the success of the ECRL is not only reverting to its original alignment but with improvement by passing through Serendah and linking Port Klang with West Port and North Port.
Reverting to original alignment
Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), in response to a question from Bernama, said reverting to the original alignment will enable the construction of a metre gauge bypass line from Serendah to Port Klang for Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) to be included into the new ECRL alignment.
"The bypass line will make the KTMB rail services more efficient as it serves as a significant freight relief line to the KTMB which currently faces bottlenecks when traversing Kuala Lumpur's central business district.
"The issue of freight congestion also concerns public safety as KTMB cargo containing hazardous materials also need to go through among others the KL Sentral and Bank Negara stations," said the ECRL project owner.
MRL said the cargo hub will be able to facilitate seamless rail connectivity from Serendah to economic corridors and ports in Peninsular Malaysia.
"In short, the new alignment will increase the efficiency of ECRL cargo services," it added.
From the economics standpoint, Bank Islam chief economist Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid said the land bridge appears to be the main selling point since it will reduce the travelling time for international trade.
"Given that Malaysia is a trading nation, it could facilitate the export-oriented industries which will be beneficial to the economic sectors such as manufacturing and services.
"Additionally, it could have an impact on the property markets, especially in areas relating to the ECRL," he told Bernama.
Mohd Afzanizam said the construction sector would also be the main beneficiaries.
"So in a nutshell, the sooner the project is implemented, the better it will be for the economy.
"Of course, adhering to the timeline and projected costs is also critical in order to avoid any potential cost overrun," he added.
Concurring with Mohd Afzanizam, MRL said the new ECRL alignment, which now covers more distance in Selangor of approximately 94km of rail line, will improve connectivity in the state, will spur the growth of the manufacturing and service sectors, and in turn bring positive socio-economic impact to areas like Gombak, Hulu Selangor, Kuala Selangor, and Port Klang.
"In addition, the new alignment will also drive tourist arrivals and the growth of business centres in Bentong, which is on track to be elevated as the second city in Pahang.
"Moreover, it is also expected to boost new developments and townships, as well as spur commercial activities in relatively new areas like Puncak Alam and Kapar which have both been designated as future stations for the ECRL," MRL added.
The ECRL, which is expected to be ready in 2026, reached 20.37% completion in January 2021 compared to the original schedule of 19.39%.
The progress of Section B (Dungun-Mentakab) project has advanced beyond its target after reaching 9.47% completion compared to its original target of 5.83%.