Chinese language banners at ECRL launch infuriates Perkasa

Frederick Owens
August 10, 2017

China is building a new transport corridor to Europe as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (also known as the New Silk Road).

"The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by the year 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast".

The project, Mr Najib said, will cut travel time between Kota Bharu and Port Klang significantly from the current seven hours to four hours.

For China, the project is another expansion of its soft power in Malaysia, which also lays claim to some disputed South China Sea islands, and is critical for China's geopolitical and strategic interests.

"The China government has attached great importance to China-Malaysia relations and has always considered Malaysia a dear neighbor and trustworthy partner who is committed to seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and common development in the country", Chinese State Councilor Wang Yong said at the ceremony on Wednesday.

The ECRL will also benefit freight transport as it will link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Still, analysts note that the 53 million tonnes Kuala Lumpur hopes will be carried via the ECRL each year is less than 10 per cent of what the Port of Singapore handles now. "It is arguably still one of the most efficient ports with massive carrying capacity", senior fellow Johan Saravanamuttu of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies told The Straits Times.

The ECRL will be an electric railway line crossing Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Selangor states.

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Malaysia's government has said it found no criminal wrongdoing at 1MDB.

Addressing concerns that the construction of ECRL will only benefit Chinese companies, Mr Najib said Malaysian contractors will be given at least 30 per cent of high impact projects.

The opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition said yesterday that the resources poured into the new rail link are at the expense of the 6,000 rail workers working for the national rail company, which will not be operating the new project.

Mr Najib said the project will be financed with an 85 per cent loan from China Exim Bank and the balance through a "sukuk" Islamic bond programme run by local investment banks.

Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsula had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and woefully inadequate rail lines. The line is due to be completed in 2024.

I strongly believe that the ECRL has huge potentials to boost economic growth particularly in the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.

Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd is the special goal vehicle under the Minister of Finance Incorporated tasked as the project owner.

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