In our research over the controversy surrounding the 600km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), we have discovered that the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) has appointed HSS Integrated Sdn Bhd to conduct a feasibility study including engineering studies, ridership studies, systems and rail operation studies, environmental screning, land use and socio-economic impact studies and most importantly, a economic and financial evaluation.
HSS Integrated is part of HSS Engineers Bhd, an engineering company which is listed on Bursa Malaysia who have been involved in some of the biggest engineering projects in Malaysia. Their rail experience would include the Electrified Double-Tracking from Ipoh to Padang Besar, the Sungai-Buloh to Kajang MRT I Line, the Ampang Line LRT Extension Project and the KLIA Express Rail Link.
They were appointed to carry out the ECRL feasibility study in December 2009 and completed their work in December 2015 and were paid RM8.7 million for their services. As disclosed in the HSS Group’s Corporate Profile and Capability statement, the proposed route was approximately 545km in length from Kuala Lumpur to Tumpat, passing through Mentakab, Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bahru.
The full HSS Group profile and capability statement can be downloaded here: http://www.hssbim.com/docs/HSS_Company_Profile.pdf
Most importantly, HSS stated that the project value for the project was RM29 billion (pg 21), or approximately RM53.2 million per kilometer. The study hence supports ECERDC CEO, Datuk Jebasingam Issac John who has previously been quoted by news reports in April 2014 that the ECRL will cost approximately RM30 billion.
Hence Pakatan Harapan elected representatives are absolutely right to heavily criticise the award of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project to China-owned China Communications Construction Company as excessively expensive RM55 billion or RM91.7 million per kilometer.
The Edge Financial Weekly had labelled the project as “the world’s most expensive” when compared to similar railway projects in Bangladesh and Kenya which were also being constructed by CCCC for only RM68.1 million and RM61.4 million respectively. Another project in Ethiopia of which 40% of the 375km project to be built by a Turkish contractor, Yapi Merkezi on challenging terrain cost only RM18.1 million per kilometer.
The EPU Minister in-charge of the project, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan tried to dismiss the “world’s most expensive” railway allegations by citing the Golthard rail project in Switzerland, the Madrid-Valladoid and the Barcelona lines in Spain costing significantly more per kilometer.
We have since debunked the EPU Minister’s comparison because those were nearly 100% rail tunnel projects and they were all High Speed Rail travelling up to 300km per hour, which we all know, cost substantially higher than conventional rail like the ECRL travelling up to 170km per hour.
In fact, the Golthard rail tunnel had to cut through the Swiss Alps and was as deep as 2.3 kilometers below surface. As a comparison, even the most expensive tunnelling project in Malaysia to date, carried out for the MRT was only 45 meters at its deepest.
After being caught trying to sell ATP turboprops at Boeing 747 prices, the EPU Minister has changed his argument to insist that “all infrastructure projects cannot be compared directly”. He is now trying to avoid the now-established claim that the ECRL at RM55 billion will indeed be the world’s most expensive in its class.
Of course it is a given that every rail project will be different. However, the EPU Minister cannot claim that the ECRL has to pass through the Titiwangsa range which will require numerous tunnels and viaducts – as if it is the only such project in the world facing such “challenges”.
Hence, to end the “world’s most expensive” railway debate once and for all, we call upon Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan to make public the feasibility study carried out by HSS which would already have included the cost of having to cut through the Titiwangsa range with tunnels and viaducts.
The EPU Minister will then have to justify to Malaysians why did the Prime Minister award the contract to CCCC at RM91.7 million per kilometer which is 72.4% more expensive than the HSS study of RM53.2 million.
The failure to do so will only confirm Malaysians’ worst fears, that the RM55 billion ECRL over-priced project is an attempt to siphon up to RM25 billion to pay off 1MDB’s debts, to cover up for the tens of billions of ringgit which have been stolen and laundered overseas.
MP Petaling Jaya Utara
Dr Hatta Ramli
MP Kuala Krai