According to prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia is still in talks with China on the project, and although both countries have not arrived at a solution, there is no deadline to the negotiations. “What we are trying to do is, ensuring that China will not lose money, while we don’t need to spend too much money,” he told Sin Chew Daily during an interview earlier this week.
He said that the government is in a dilemma, because proceeding with the project or terminating will entail huge costs, the latter due to the substantial compensation required. As such, Malaysia is looking to amend the project or find other solutions.
“We are still negotiating with them (China), formally or informally. Of course for them, this is a very good project, because they can earn a lot of money, they do not wish to change that,” he said.
The cost of the ECRL construction was originally reported at RM55 billion, a figure which was allocated by the former government during Budget 2017. Mahathir had previously said that terms outlined by the previous government, which entailed that the money should be paid regardless of the construction progress, were not beneficial for Malaysia, and so the current government had sought to end the project.
“But this is not easy, because we are bound by the agreement terms, we cannot just terminate as we wish, we have no money to pay China. If we terminate, the government is required to make a substantial amount of compensation. Now we are already paying a lot of money, just to postpone it,” he said.
He said the project was a waste of money with zero return. He cited the case of the West Coast railway, which has a high degree of utilisation, but has never made any money, and said the ECRL would fare
“Along the ECRL route, there are fewer people and they may not be able to afford ECRL’s fee. They are not like people living in the West Coast, doing big businesses, so you won’t be able to get back any money from the project,” he said
The proposed project is to consist of two phases – Phase 1 with 21 stations along a 600.3 km line, connecting Kota Bharu in Kelantan to the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak (ITT Gombak) in Selangor – a future interchange for the Kelana Jaya LRT line – and Phase 2, which comprises 88 km of combined track from Gombak North to Port Klang, and an extension link between Kota Bharu and Pengkalan Kubor.
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