The West Coast Expressway (WCE), a 232 km highway that will span from Banting to Taiping in Perak along Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast, is now 5% complete. The WCE, or Lebuhraya Pantai Barat, was mentioned in Budget 2015 and is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019. The concession period for WCE is 50 years.

Concession holder Kumpulan Europlus Bhd (KEB) will be calling for tenders for the remaining six packages for the RM6 billion WCE in the next few months, The Sun reports. The six packages are worth RM2.2 billion. Earlier, KEB awarded five packages worth of RM2.8 billion to IJM Construction via a direct award as per the terms of the concession agreement.

“The progress of these packages comes to 20%,” CEO Datuk Neoh Soon Hiong told reporters at KEB’s EGM yesterday, adding trhat as a whole, the WCE is now 5% complete. Neoh does not foresee an increase in construction costs for the highway despite the weakening ringgit, which has made imported building materials more expensive. “So far until today, it is still within the budget (of RM5 billion purely for construction costs),” he said.

KEB’s head added that the company is not interested in bidding for upcoming highway projects such as the Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway (DASH) and Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE), as the WCE will keep it busy for the next few years. There are also no diversification plans.

“I think the main core is to complete the WCE as per schedule. In the meantime, we’re also looking for other opportunities like acquiring land bank along the WCE corridor,” he said.

The WCE is expected to greatly reduce travelling time between towns on the west coast, as the current Federal Route 5 gets rather congested during weekends.