The cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) has been reduced to RM74.96 billion, according to prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The new figure is RM11.01 billion less when compared to the original cost of RM85.97 billion approved in 2016, as reported by The Edge.

In a press conference broadcast on Wednesday (December 21), Anwar revealed the cost reduction came about despite a “slight increase” in cost incurred by a new realignment. “Although there was a slight increase [in cost] to accommodate the realignment of the ECRL project that we approved, [we managed to] bring down the total cost by RM11.01 billion,” he said.

The ECRL project was first launched in 2017 and its progress has been rather turbulent, with various figures presented throughout the years. To make it easier to digest, the transport ministry (now headed by Anthony Loke) recently issued a release detailing the cost breakdown of the project throughout the years.

The original cost of the ECRL project (ECRL 1.0) when it was first introduced was RM85.97 billion, with RM66.78 billion being the construction cost, while the remaining RM19.19 billion was for other development costs (land and utility costs, project cancellation/delay costs, interest during construction and operation expenses).

In 2018, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad cancelled the ECRL project due to cost concerns, but it was later resurrected in 2019. The amended ECRL 2.0’s quoted overall cost was RM66.02 billion, with the construction cost reduced from ECRL 1.0 to RM44 billion, but other development costs went up to RM22.02 billion.

The latest figure under the unity government is RM74.96 billion as mentioned, with the construction cost increased to RM50.27 billion and other development costs to RM24.69 billion. The ministry also emphasised that the cost reduction compared to ECRL 1.0 was achieved through a series of ECRL contract negotiations finalised in 2019 and 2022 contract.

“Several factors including the comprehensive implementation of value engineering and the realignment of the ECRL tracks on Section C (Temerloh-Serendah-Port Klang) has contributed to the reduction in overall construction cost,” it said.

When completed, the 665-km rail project from Kota Bharu to Port Klang will feature 59 tunnels and 20 stations to ferry passengers as well as cargo. It will also see the construction of the Serendah Bypass to facilitate the movement of cargo from the north as well as a railway extension from the Jalan Kastam station to both Westport and Northport terminals.

The ECRL is expected to start operating in January 2027 and is currently 30% completed as of May this year, with Wee previously saying the target is to reach 37% completion by the end of 2022.