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A thriving year for Malaysia’s infrastructure sector with ECRL, KL-Singapore high speed rail projects 

KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s infrastructure sector is set to see another thriving year with big-ticket projects such as the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) taking shape, making it among the final piece of the puzzle to enable 30 million Malaysians to travel seamlessly. 

Rail transport will continue to remain relevant as this has been demonstrated even in the most developed countries as the most sustainable, whether in terms of energy consumption or carbon dioxide emission. 

The most important factor here is how the government will manoeuvre the 688km line from Port Klang, Selangor, to Pengkalan Kubor, Kelantan, near the Thai border. 

The other high-impact rail project that Malaysia has embarked on is the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail, which cost above RM60 billion and is slated to be operational by December 31, 2026.

Currently, there is no rail link between this stretch. 

The other high-impact rail project that Malaysia has embarked on is the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail, which cost above RM60 billion and is slated to be operational by December 31, 2026. 

“Using rail as a preferred mode would need efforts to be undertaken by the authorities,” said Dr Shahrin Nasir, Deputy Director (Industrial Linkages & Commercialisation), Malaysia Institute of Transport (MITRANS), Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam. 

The general public need to be aware of the importance of environmentally-friendly and safe transportation. 

“One of the success factors of rail transport in developed countries is the fact that environmental awareness is high. When people are aware that rail transport is also among the most environmentally friendly and safest transport mode, they will start using it,” he told Bernama.

However, Shahrin said it would be too ambitious to give the exact time-frame when Malaysia would be able to strike it as there was still a lot of work to be done on that front. 

Besides the environmental aspect, he pointed out that rail projects such as the ECRL could help reduce the heavy traffic flow on roads. 

“When industrial activities start to increase in the east coast, rail transport would be able to reduce the heavy dependence on roads. 

“With some regulations in place for heavy vehicles on the road, it would help reduce movement on roads as rail services will appear as a better option. Some European countries have imposed such regulations, he said. 

“It would be a great alternative for passenger travel to the east coast especially to Kota Bharu,” he said, adding that the number of buses plying daily between the Klang Valley and Kota Bharu was very high. 

Asked if the ECRL would turn out to be a white elephant as claimed by some, Shahrin said the main attractive feature of this service would be the price-tag that would be attached to the service. 

Besides the preserving the environment and safety reasons, the price one would pay for the service was equally crucial, he said. 

“The second factor will be the connectivity of the service. Since road transport can done door-to-door, the ECRL service also needs to look at how to connect the train stations to respected destinations,” he pointed out. 

“If those factors and other service sectors such as reliability, frequency and punctuality, comfort and speed are met, the service can attract many people. 

“Although safe arrival is the utmost objective of any transport service, it was not a significant element when people are choosing any mode of transport. So if those factors are met, I believe the project will not be a white elephant,” he said. 

On the other hand, the ECRL project is also viewed as crucial as it could help balance the development between the west coast and the east coast of the peninsula, as rightfully pointed out by the President of the Malaysia Malay Chamber of Commerce, Pahang Chapter Yusri Yusof. 

"All this while, investments, whether domestic or foreign, have always concentrated on the west coast. 

“However, with a rail service that will traverse the smaller towns in Pahang like Bentong, Mentakab, Maran, Gambang, Kota SAS, Kuantan Port City I and II, and Cherating, it will be a blessing for the state in attracting investors to this part of the country,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the impact of the Electric Train Service (ETS) on people’s mobility in the west coast was a very good example, said Abi Sofian Abdul Hamid, Group Managing Partner of Thought Partners Group Consulting. 

Echoing Shahrin's view, he said the key word was whether state governments were planning their blueprint on how to take advantage of the opportunities created by ECRL. 

“They must start the ball rolling now so that by the time ECRL is ready for operation, all the basic groundwork is in place. For instance, if there is a need to create a new economic zone, it should start now with aggressive marketing efforts,” he said. 

Abi Sofian, however, warned that it would be too late if they wait for the ECRL to be completed first, before taking on marketing efforts. 

ECRL’s first phase has a planned operating date in 2024. 

BMI Research, in a recent report, said connectivity improvement would grow at an annual average of 4.7 per cent in real terms between 2018 and 2027. 

Abo Sofian also said the main stations along ECRL must also be connected to other centres of attraction like tourism spots and the various agencies must come together to come up with the best package. 

“Why do people in Europe like to travel on trains? Murder on the Orient Express is based on the adventure and attractiveness of rail travel. Likewise, the E&O Express (luxury passenger train connecting Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok). 

“These potential attractions must be explored and utilised to the maximum,” he opined.

Source by: 
The Malay Mail
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