'Truly Malaysia-owned': Local firms can take up ECRL project

AMIR HISYAM RASID

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA has what it takes to fully support the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) development, making it a “truly Malaysia-owned” project while keeping costs low, say industry players.

The move would possibly see companies coming from different sectors working hand in hand on the project once they decided that it was viable, they added.

Eversendai Corp Bhd executive chairman and group managing director Tan Sri A.K. Nathan said the track record of Malaysian companies, especially in developing mega infrastructure projects locally and overseas, showed that they were skilled and capable of delivering.

“We could make it our own, a truly Malaysia-owned (project). Malaysians have the talent and skills to implement the ECRL. They have the capabilities and expertise to keep costs down and offer competitive pricing for the project to be developed.

“They can offer competitive pricing, better than the RM55 billion cost, which I believe was highly inflated,” he told NST Business.However, Nathan said, the financing element of the project could pose a major challenge.

“This can be overcome if a group of banks come together to finance the project. If it is financially viable, the companies can form a consortium to share the financing risk.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said other parties had offered to build the rail link for as low as RM10 billion.

“Some even said they can build the ECRL for RM10 billion instead of RM55 billion. Some are Chinese companies, some are local companies. We have to talk with them if there is a possibility of reducing the cost from RM55 billion to RM10 billion. We would be stupid not to accept.

“But we have to study whether, in fact, you can reduce the cost by that much,” Dr Mahathir said in a report published on The Malay-sian Insight news portal.

An industry player, who was involved in overseas and local infrastructure railway projects, also believed that Malaysians had the capability to undertake the project.

He said the expertise would come from construction companies, manufacturing companies with railway expertise, as well as government agencies, like the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology.

“We have the capacity to get it done. It needs a holistic approach. The idea is to gather all industry players and get them to work together and, believe me, we could get the best deal out of it.”

Another industry source said the most ideal option to keep the cost down was to reduce its infrastructure work and rail alignment. This could save up to one-third of the project cost, with fewer stations along the route, he added.

Another option was to have a single track, single formation throughout the route with stations to be developed only where traffic was high.

For cargo connectivity, improvements can be made to the existing KTM lines to ferry cargo to Port Klang, the source said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd