Malaysia ends talks with China over $20bn East Coast Rail Link, looks for replacement

The government of Malaysia this week terminated its contract with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL), and has begun looking for another company or consortium that will carry out the work for half the US$20bn cost of the original, according to reports in Singapore’s Straits Times.

Work on the 688km standard gauge line was agreed in November 2016 by the government of Najib Razak, and work on site began in 2017. It was then halted in July last year following the election victory of Mahathir Mohamed in May on the grounds that its initial cost estimate of $13bn had grown by $7bn.

Since then, Malaysia has been in talks with CCCC over ways to cut cost and capture more economic benefits for Malaysian companies in its construction. These talks are understood to have broken down, leading to the retendering of the scheme.

The ECRL was intended to connect Kuantan Port on the Malaysia’s east coast with Port Klang on its west, a link that would allow cargo to bypass Singapore and the congested straits of Malacca.

Image: China’s CJ6-type locomotive, which was expected to have operated on the ECRL (N509FZ /CC-BY-SA-4.0)

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