Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong has hit back at his predecessor Anthony Loke over the latter’s claim that the realignment proposal of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government was aimed to purposely exclude Pakatan Harapan-led Negeri Sembilan.
“I respect Anthony Loke's stand but I also have some important things to explain about this infrastructure project,” said Wee in a lengthy Facebook post today.
“Loke says the alignment (that he proposed) will provide development for five states, but even passing through the original four states and related areas can also benefit development.
“The only difference that it’s not going through Negeri Sembilan,” said Wee.
Under the original alignment by BN, the ECRL would pass through Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang before entering Selangor from the north through Gombak and making its way to Serendah and Port Klang.
Wee said the decision was partly because the number of potential riders using the services for the Mentakab, Bentong and Gombak routes was significantly more than the alternate route through Kuala Klawang, Nilai and Putrajaya.
“We must take a look at the ‘viability’ of the ECRL project which is going to be 30 percent dependent on passengers and 70 percent dependent on cargo,” said Wee, who also highlighted that reverting to the original ECRL will connect to both Westport and Northport in Port Klang as opposed to Loke’s alternative which only went to Westport.
Wee also said Harapan’s claim that it brought savings of RM21.5 billion compared to the original agreement was not a fair comparison because the savings were due to Harapan changing the scope of work and downsizing the development.
“This is different from the concept of saving whereby the prices decrease while the scope of work is maintained,” said Wee.
“After a thorough review, I can confirm that the unit cost of construction used by the ECRL Project contractor has not changed or decreased under the alternative route proposed by Harapan.”
He called on Loke to be patient until the project was further completed to make a fair cost comparison based on the quantity of work and distance.
Loke (above) had also claimed that the Harapan government altered the proposed route so that it wouldn't go through Bentong and Gombak as initially planned, thus avoiding the need for a costly 17.8km tunnel through the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge. Instead, Harapan's proposed ECRL would have run south to Kuala Klawang in Negeri Sembilan before entering Selangor.
“Why doesn't Loke reveal that under the SA5 supplemental agreement No 5, there is still another tunnel to cross the Titiwangsa Ranges in Kuala Klawang?
“In addition, under the same SA5 agreement, there is provision for a review of tunnel quantity or bridges with increments of up to 41km,” said Wee.
Wee also challenged the announcement of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin that the ECRL cost would have been RM44 billion under the Harapan proposal, saying it would be more than RM46 billion.
“In addition, there are other costs that are not publicly known. For example, the cost of cancellation, abandonment and postponement of projects due to changes to the new lines through Negeri Sembilan and Putrajaya and the re-alignment of sections from Kota Bharu to Dungun have been claimed by contractors in excess of RM1 billion,” said Wee.
He also took Loke to task over the latter’s claim that under the original ECRL alignment, the Klang Gate Quartz Ridge would be destroyed if the original alignment was followed.
“Why don’t you recall the option provided by a contractor under which the Quartz Ridge (which is in Gombak) can be saved?
“This proposal has long been highlighted, and I wonder why the former transport minister has never known this? All the settlement options submitted to the Selangor Government will not ruin the Gombak Quartz Ridge,” he said.