Three days ago, Dato’ Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the Minister in-charge of Economic Planning Unit (EPU) responsible for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) tried to deflect the allegations that the cost of ECRL was the most expensive in the world.
Unlike his fellow Cabinet Minister, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai who denied that the ECRL was to cost RM55 billion or approximately RM91.7 million per kilometer, the EPU Minister pretty much confirmed the cost of the project. Instead he argued that it was not the most expensive in the world.
Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan gave the examples of a 57km rail project in Switzerland costing US$11.9 billion (RM50bn) or US$209 million (RM860 mil) per km to build; a 177km rail line in Madrid-Valladolid, Spain, costing US$5.48 billion (RM22.46bn) or about US$30 million (RM123 mil) a km; and a 48km rail project in Barcelona costing about US$8.12 billion (RM33.3bn) or US$170 million (RM697 mil) per km.
It is disastrous for Malaysia that the EPU Minister actually cited these projects as comparison to our own proposed ECRL.
Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan perhaps didn’t realise that the 57km Swiss Golthard rail project costing a whopping RM50 billion actually involved the building of the world’s longest tunnel as deep as 2.3km below the surface! The neighbouring 56km Brenner rail project which is currently under construction costing just a shade less than Golthard, will be the second longest tunnel in the world when it’s completed in 2025.
Is the Minister telling us that the 600km ECRL link from Port Klang to Kota Bahru via Kuantan will be, if not completely, substantially underground to compare with the Swiss rail lines underneath the Alps?
Similarly, the Barcelona line costing US$8.12 billion has a length of 47.8 km, of which 43.71 km is underground and 4.9 km is on viaducts.
At the same time, the 177km Madrid-Valladoid line was only the first phase of the two-phase Madrid-Leon 342km rail line costing a total of US$6.34 billion. That actually works out to only US$18.54 million (RM76 mil) per kilometer which is cheaper than the ECRL’s RM91.7 million per kilometer!
Most of all, all of the examples cited by Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan are not only tunnel-intensive, they are all High Speed Rail (HSR) projects which, as we know cost significantly more than conventional rail projects like ECRL. These European HSRs travels up to a top speed of 300km per hour compared to the ECRL project proposed at 170km per hour.
Hence what the ignorant Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan attempted to do, intentionally or otherwise, is to try to sell Malaysians a ATP turboprop at the price of a Boeing 747. Unfortunately for him, Malaysians are not that stupid.
The EPU Minister shouldn’t have to go around to world to try justifying the exorbitant cost of the ECRL project. After all, this isn’t our first and only rail project. He should very well know that the 329km Ipoh-Padang Besar and 179km Gemas-Johor Bahru double-tracking link cost RM44.0 million and RM39.8 million per kilometre respectively. Amazingly, these projects such as the Ipoh-Padang Besar and Rawang-Ipoh links were all completed by local engineering and construction companies!
We challenge Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan to show proof that a conventional railway project would cost anything more than the above or that there are no local companies with the necessary expertise who are able to complete the ECRL project for far less than the RM55 billion awarded to China Communications Construction Company.
MP Petaling Jaya Utara
Dr Hatta Ramli
MP Kuala Krai