ECRL not hit by Covid-19 as most workers stayed put during CNY break, says MRL CEO

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
The ECRL is a joint venture between MRL and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), who yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding pertaining to a portion of the ECRL in Terengganu, with state-owned Terengganu Incorporated. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Despite global panic and a slew of travel bans enforced in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, construction on the Malaysian-Chinese East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) joint venture here has been unaffected, said Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL). 

MRL’s chief executive Datuk Seri Darwis Abdul Razak said although 1,000 construction workers from the project are Chinese nationals, 800 of them decided to remain in Malaysia during the recent Lunar New Year celebrations, effectively avoiding the Covid-19 outbreak that originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. 

Darwis, when quoted in a report by Singapore’s Straits Times (ST) published today, explained that the 200 remaining workers who returned here from China after the festive season underwent 14 days of self-quarantine at their respective base camps before reporting for work. 

The chief executive explained that a total of 13 workers assigned to the project are from Wuhan, but they were told to remain in China and allowed to work from home. 

“Many of these workers are management-level staff and so their absence from the development site will not affect our construction at the moment,” he was quoted as saying in the report. 

The report also quoted Darwis as saying that the Covid-19 outbreak is not expected to greatly affect the construction’s progress and loan disbursements from China’s Exim Bank. 

“As far as funds disbursement is concerned, there is no issue about it. 

“Everything is progressing well... we do not anticipate any issue,” said Darwis. 

Also quoted in the report was the project’s main contractor, China Communications Construction ECRL’s managing director Bai Yinzhan, who said he was confident the Covid-19 outbreak would be over soon. 

The ECRL is a joint venture between MRL and China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), who yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding pertaining to a portion of the ECRL in Terengganu, with state-owned Terengganu Incorporated. 

The ECRL will run through the states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, linking them with Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya with the entire journey set to take only around four hours, half the time it takes to drive the same distance. 

The 640km stretch was temporarily stalled in 2018 when Barisan Nasional unexpectedly lost the general election, with the new Pakatan Harapan administration then renegotiating the project price with China. 

It was then decided last April that the project cost would be reduced by more than RM21 billion, with the new price at RM44 billion as opposed to the original RM65.5 billion price tag. 

According to the ST report, the ECRL is about 15 per cent complete after construction resumed last July following the hiatus in 2018. 

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