Government should publish ECRL realignment feasibility study – IDEAS

KUALA LUMPUR : The government should release to the public a feasibility study which shows how the proposed realignment to the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will lower costs and save time, said Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).

In a statement, IDEAS said it welcomes the current government’s intention to lower the costs of the project, but must release a study showing how this will be achieved.

Its chief executive officer Tricia Yeoh remarked that large infrastructure projects such as the ECRL require significant amounts of public funding.

“The government must ensure that the decisions around these projects are based on achieving value for money and high-quality service delivery, while supported through comprehensive feasibility studies.

“These studies should also be published as part of a robust assurance process. The failure to disclose them undermines evidence-based decision-making,” she said.

IDEAS noted that internationally accepted standard for transparency requires the government to project information such as estimated project budget, land areas, property acquisitions, material prices, environmental impacts, and mitigation measures — all of which would be made available through the publication of feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the current government to demonstrate higher transparency standards than the previous two administrations. Providing comprehensive information on large infrastructure projects that abide by international standards will set Perikatan Nasional apart from its predecessors, and set a good example within the region as well,” commented Yeoh.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has said via a written parliamentary reply that the government is looking at reverting to the alignment previously announced under the Barisan Nasional administration.

In particular, the government is in the midst of reviewing Section C of the alignment, which spans from Mentakab to Port Klang, in respect of the original alignment which goes through Bentong to Gombak.

In 2019, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government renegotiated the megaproject to reduce its costs, resulting in project cost reduction of RM21.5 billion and a significant realignment which covers Section C.

ECRL Revised Alignment

However, the PH government did not complete the Environmental Impact Assessment required by the Environmental Quality Act 1974, nor did it publish the feasibility study for the now contested section of the track.

ECRL Original Alignment

Therefore, the cost reduction, which brought the project’s price tag to RM44 billion, from RM65.5 billion, was based on a comprehensive value engineering exercise, with no report on the exercise being published to the public either, according to IDEAS.

According to a report by The Edge, reverting to the old alignment could raise the cost by 13.64% to an estimated RM50 billion.

By : Arjuna Chandran Shankar – THE EDGE MARKETS

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