The LRT3 project linking Bandar Utama to Klang will go ahead, but with final costs reduced by 47%, from RM31.65 billion to RM16.63 billion, finance minister Lim Guan Eng announced yesterday. Nothing is for free, of course, and the nearly halved costs comes at the expense of several stations and shorter trains, among other things.

Firstly, five of the planned 26 stations have been deferred, and they are the Lien Hoe, Temasya, Sirim, Bukit Raja and Bandar Botanic stations. Lim said that these stations have low projected ridership. The planned 2km tunnel including an an underground station at Persiaran Hishamuddin in Shah Alam will be cancelled.

Also, the stations that survived the chop will be smaller – based on existing Kelana Jaya LRT standards instead of MRT stations. Lim added that the timeline for completion of the 37 km line would be extended from 2020 to 2024, and this is to remove “acceleration costs” from the total construction bill.

Another sacrifice concerns the trains. The original plan was for 42 sets of six-car trains, but the order has been changed to 22 sets of three-car trains. The minister says that the reduced number of shorter trains is “more than sufficient to cope with the anticipated passenger demand until the year 2035 before additional three-car trains need to be ordered.” With less trains in service, the size of the LRT train depot will also be smaller.

“The savings of more than RM15 billion would not only mean a massive reduction in debt to be incurred, but also result in additional savings to the tax-payers of up to RM14 billion in interest cost over the period of the loan financing. The 47% reduction in cost demonstrates that the new government is walking the talk in securing significant cost reductions for excessively-priced projects caused by the poor governance of the previous government,” Lim said.

The LRT3 project will be restructured to a “fixed price contract” from the previous project delivery partner (PDP) model to prevent future cost overruns. A MRCB-George Kent JV is the construction partner for the project.