KUALA LUMPUR (May 9): Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) expects to work on a new feasibility study and environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in the third quarter of 2019 as the entire rail alignment would be detailed out by then.

In a statement today to clarify on the improved ECRL project, MRL said the improved deal for the 640-km ECRL project is rakyat-centric and driven by transparency and accountability.

MRL said what was pertinent was the renegotiation of the ECRL project resulted in a win-win situation that mutually benefited Malaysia and China.

It said this included a reduction of RM21.5 billion or 33% of the project’s cost to RM44 billion, the establishment of a 50:50 joint-venture company between MRL and China Communications Construction Company Ltd for the operation and maintenance of the ECRL, and increased in local participation of Malaysian contractors in the project’s civil works.

"Hence, it is noteworthy to mention that neither the government of Malaysai nor MRL have claimed that the savings of RM21.5 billion for the improved ECRL project was purely from the element of “overpricing”," it said.

MRL stressed that Malaysia entered into negotiations with China on a cooperative basis to find ways and means to reduce the cost of the ECRL without losing the essence of the rail network.

"For the record, both countries chose to enter the negotiations in a spirit of diplomatic goodwill, with the aim of achieving the construction of the ECRL at a lower cost," it said.

On the EIA, MRL highlighted that renegotiations were conducted on the premise that the original engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) agreement was still in place.

The company said it was not a negotiating process to reach a new EPCC agreement but to facilitate the resumption of the ECRL project via the supplementary agreement that was inked on April 12, 2019 in Beijing.

"Moreover, MRL takes cognizance of the fact that as a legal document, the original EPCC agreement could not simply be cast aside.

"This itself negated the need for a new feasibility study since we were working on the premise to avoid paying termination fee at a staggering RM21.78 billion," it said.

MRL said while the 17.8km long Genting Tunnel is no longer part of the ECRL project, a twin-bore tunnel approximately 7km in length to be constructed in the Jelebu-Semenyih area would help reduce the loss of forest and minimise impact on wildlife.

It said the tunnel together with the design of the alignment to avoid water catchment areas are among the measures taken for environmental safeguards under the southern alignment.

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