KUALA LUMPUR ― The country’s infrastructure sector is set to see another thriving year with big-ticket projects such as the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) taking shape, making it among the final piece of the puzzle to enable 30 million Malaysians to travel seamlessly.
Rail transport will continue to remain relevant as this has been demonstrated even in the most developed countries as the most sustainable, whether in terms of energy consumption or carbon dioxide emission.
The most important factor here is how the government will manoeuvre the 688km line from Port Klang, Selangor to Pengkalan Kubor, Kelantan, near the Thai border.
Currently, there is no rail link between this stretch.
The other high-impact rail project that Malaysia has embarked on is the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail, which cost above RM60 billion and is slated to be operational by Dec 31, 2026.
“Using rail as a preferred mode would need efforts to be undertaken by the authorities,” said Dr Shahrin Nasir, Deputy Director (Industrial Linkages & Commercialisation), Malaysia Institute of Transport, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam.
The general public needs to be aware of the importance of environmentally-friendly and safe transportation.
“One of the success factors of rail transport in developed countries is the fact that environmental awareness is high. When people are aware that rail transport is also among the most environmentally-friendly and safest transport mode, they will start using it,” he told Bernama.
However, Shahrin said it would be too ambitious to give the exact timeframe when Malaysia would be able to strike it as there was still a lot of work to be done.
Besides the environmental aspect, he pointed out that rail projects such as the ECRL could help reduce heavy traffic flow on roads.
“When industrial activities start to increase in the east coast, rail transport would be able to reduce the heavy dependence on roads.
“With some regulations in place for heavy vehicles on the road, it would help reduce movement on roads as rail services will appear as a better option. Some European countries have imposed such regulations, he said.
“It would be a great alternative for passenger travel to the east coast especially to Kota Bharu,” he said, adding that the number of buses plying daily between the Klang Valley and Kota Bharu was very high.
The ECRL is also viewed as crucial as it could help balance the development between the west coast and the east coast of the peninsula.
Abi Sofian Abdul Hamid, Group Managing Partner of Thought Partners Group Consulting said the key word was whether state governments were planning their blueprint on how to take advantage of the opportunities created by ECRL.
“They must start the ball rolling now so that by the time ECRL is ready for operation, all the basic groundwork is in place. For instance, if there is a need to create a new economic zone, it should start now with aggressive marketing efforts,” he said.
ECRL’s first phase has a planned operating date in 2024.