Chinese-constructed mega railway in Malaysia 30% completed

Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is a key venture of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Malaysia. The project is primarily funded by a loan from China’s state-owned Export-Import (EXIM) Bank. Given Malaysia’s close economic relationship with China, which is its largest trade partner, the country has appeared as a BRI focal point. The rail line is scheduled to commence operation by 2027.

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The construction of the 655-kilometer ECRL project, undertaken by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), has been progressing steadily, with 30 percent of the work completed by May. Excavation work has also commenced on the Genting Tunnel of the project.

The mega infrastructure project with $12 billion in investment will be a game-changer by offering a modern, safe, and efficient transport network to Malaysia’s East Coast, the Malaysian government said, adding that the country will gain a wealth of experience from the extensive technical expertise of the Chinese company.

The 871-metre-long Dungun tunnel will limit deforestation in the Bukit Bauk reserve on the east coast in Terengganu state. Bukit Bauk is part of Malaysia’s Central Forest Spine, a network of secondary forests that link the country’s main national parks and allow for the free movement of wildlife. The ECRL aims to protect against habitat fragmentation with a series of tunnels and viaducts; when complete, it will have 38.7km of elevated track and 13.5km of tunnels. (Photo Alexandra Radu)

The CCCC was named contractor of the ECRL Project in Malaysia based on its previous experiences with the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Kenya and the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway in China. 

Kong Qi, managing director at China Communications Construction ECRL, said that the project is a natural extension of its rail transit business.

The CCCC has carried out in-depth research on special technologies to solve problems like how to effectively connect the design and construction of civil works. Saiful Adli Bin Yahya, land acquisition manager at China Communications Construction ECRL, said encouraging progress has been made so far.

During the construction and operation period, the flow of people, goods, capital as well as information will be boosted to accelerate the growth of manufacturing, mining, tourism and other industries, Wan Azman Bin Wan Mat, facility relocation manager, told CGTN.

Upon completion, travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu will be shortened to less than 4 hours, he said, adding that the railway will help form a more integrated and diverse transportation service system.

According to Malaysia Industrial Development Finance, the ECRL project construction will contribute 2.7 percent to Malaysia’s economic growth. Meanwhile, the CCCC is also conducting a program targeting young Malaysians with an eye on recruiting talent for the construction and operation stage of the project.

The facility relocation manager pointed out that they are looking to hire 5,000 outstanding railway construction and operation workers to encourage local people to participate more closely in the project, continuously promote cultural integration and provide a brighter future for Malaysians.

The rail link is expected to enhance connectivity and bring more balanced growth to the country by linking its less-developed regions on the East Coast to the economic heartland on the West Coast, upon its completion in 2027.

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