China rail project in Malaysia launched
A MEGA railway to be built by China was officially launched yesterday in the Malaysian city of Kuantan, a milestone for China-Malaysia ties as China pushed forward the Belt and Road Initiative.
At a cost of 55 billion ringgit (R172.6bn), the 688km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) would help upgrade public transportation infrastructure on the east coast, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The ECRL is the first artery railway built on the east coast, which has been connected to the west coast only “via a network of roads and highways, and small rail lines that were woefully inadequate”.
Describing the project as a gamechanger for Malaysia, Najib said it would significantly cut travel time from Gombak in suburban Kuala Lumpur, to Kota Baru in the north-eastern state of Kelantan, from seven to four hours.
The railway will be built by China Communications Construction Company, a leading transportation infrastructure group that also built a landmark bridge in the north-western state of Penang.
Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong also attended the ceremony.
He praised the ECRL as a “flagship project” jointly built by the two countries under the Belt and Road Initiative, which would boost economic transformation and balanced development of different regions in Malaysia.
He expressed his hope that China and Malaysia could seize the historic opportunity brought by the Belt and Road Initiative to achieve win-win results and joint development.
China was willing to work closely with the Malaysian side and build the rail link into another landmark project so as to benefit the Malaysian people as soon as possible and help realise regional development and prosperity, Wang added.
The ECRL will be an electric railway line crossing Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Selangor states.
It will accommodate passenger trains at a maximum speed of 160km/h, and goods trains at a maximum speed of 80km/h. Construction of the rail link is expected to be completed by 2024.
The project would benefit the 4.4 million population along its route, said Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia’s Minister of Transport yesterday.
He estimated that the ECRL would serve 5.4 million passengers annually by 2030.
The Export-Import Bank of China financed 85 percent of the railway with soft loans, while the Malaysian government provided the remaining 15 percent via issuing bonds, according to Najib.