Prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said that the government has yet to make a decision regarding the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), and that negotiations between Malaysia and China are still ongoing, according to a report by The Star.

“At this moment, no final decisions have been made. Some decisions were made but we have to find a better solution. We are still negotiating,” said the premier. “We feel that we should give time to both sides [Malaysia and China] to come up with a solution to the problem. There may be other options – we are open.

“We are still studying the costs. Apparently, there are offers by others which will cost less. The previous government gave a very high estimate on ECRL.”

The comments came after finance minister Lim Guan Eng and economic affairs minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali butted heads over the project, with the former saying that the fate of the ECRL is still uncertain, and the latter claiming that it had been scrapped over high costs.

Mahathir said that the conflicting remarks were due to the media interpreting the ministers’ statements differently. “Both [ministers] are right but the timing [stated] was wrong. The minister who attended the Cabinet meeting made a statement that was not exactly reported in the media.

“The media reported something else and stressed different points. What he was explaining was that we need to have good relations with China because China will be a partner with us, a source of foreign direct investment. The conflicting information is because the media interpreted his [the minister’s] statement differently,” said Mahathir.

The project, which was initially projected to cost RM81 billion, was approved under then-prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in October 2016, with construction set to be handled by China Communication Constructions Company (CCCC) and financing by Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank of China).

Malaysia would be able to secure the loan from the bank providing that CCCC builds the railway. The railway was planned to stretch some 688 km from Port Klang in Selangor to Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan in two stages.