Malaysia will proceed with its Chinese-sponsored East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), at much reduced cost, after suspending work in July last year and apparently cancelling it in February, the government said today.
The office of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the first two phases will cost about $10.6bn, rather than an original estimate of $15.9bn.
Mahathir halted work after his election in May 2018, with his government claiming costs had ballooned to $20bn. Nine months of negotiations and contradictory statements followed.
Today’s statement said a deal had been signed with the original contractor, China Communications Construction Company, that would "pave the way for the resumption of the East Coast Rail Link project", which it said wouldÂ "surely benefit Malaysia and lighten the burden on the country’s financial position".Â
The deal was signed in Beijing by Daim Zainuddin, a businessman and former finance minister of Malaysia who was acting as special envoy to the leader. Mahathir is expected to hold a press conference on Monday.
The 688km rail link, which will connect Port Klang on the Straits of Malacca to Pengkalan Kubor, was one of the flagship projects for China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Image: The link’s west coast terminus will be Port Klang (Hafiz343/ CC BY-SA 4.0)