KUALA LUMPUR (April 12): The construction of the high-impact East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in Kelantan is progressing slightly ahead of schedule according to Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), which is optimistic about the economic spin-offs the connection will bring to the region.

In a statement yesterday, MRL chief executive officer Datuk Seri Darwis Abdul Razak said that out of 2,951 respondents in Kelantan, 79% of them endorsed the Kota Bharu-Wakaf Bharu-Pengkalan Kubor alignment during the recent three-month public inspection for Phase 2 of the ECRL.

The Kota Bharu-Jelawat-Tok Bali alignment was already approved by regulator Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) under the ECRL Railway Scheme for Phase 1 in June 2017.

Darwis was optimistic that SPAD would soon give approval for Phase 2. “We are all geared up to facilitate preparatory works such as land clearing, soil investigation and earthworks for the extended alignment from the Kelantan state capital to the Thai border under Phase 2.”

Multiple viaducts and bridges totalling about 20km in length would be built in Kelantan to facilitate passenger trains and locomotives to bypass flood areas and rivers.

He said that MRL together with the ECRL’s main contractor, China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), have been making steady progress in the state as seen by the land acquisition process, building of base and satellite camps along the alignment, batching plants as well as access roads to the construction sites.

“Full-scale infrastructure works for Phase 1 in Kelantan would commence from April 2018 onwards while Phase 2 is expected to follow suit in a matter of months. At such an accelerated pace, MRL is confident of the construction of both phases of the ECRL in Kelantan being completed simultaneously before 2024.

“The ECRL will be able to connect key industrial development areas including Tok Bali and Kota Bharu, hence providing greater market competitiveness for businesses as well as creating employment opportunities for the Kelantanese. Therefore, we look forward to fully operating this infra-rakyat project, which is a catalyst for economic equality between the west coast and the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia by mid-2024.”

An estimated 80,000 jobs are expected to be created by the project, which is also projected to raise the gross domestic product of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang by 1.5%.

The ECRL’s ground-breaking ceremony was yesterday officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak at the Kota Baru station site in Bandar Baru Tunjong.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 12, 2018.

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