Ballooning Costs and Single Track Mind Nixes High Speed Lines

RAIL CONUNDRUM

ERL's Noormah Noor: Ballooning Costs and Single Track Mind Nixes High Speed Lines

What implications does the cancellation of the ECRL and the MyHSR projects have on Malaysia? CEO of Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd Noormah Mohd Noor shares her views with Ibrahim Sani.

There has been plenty of shocking announcements that the new government has made in their first hundred days of administration. In particular, the cancellation of two mega projects - The High Speed Rail connecting Kuala Lumpur with Singapore (MyHSR) and the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) connecting Kuala Lumpur with cities in the east coast.

The main bugbear has been the mind-boggling computation and the apparently runaway cost of construction for what is a single-track line.

While the ECRL and MyHSR are good projects, the computation of costs of the projects needs to be improved

When asked, if the government is heading in the right direction with the cancellation of these projects, the CEO of Express Rail Link (ERL) Sdn Bhd gave her views rather pointedly.

"My personal view is that these (ECRL and MyHSR) are really good projects," says Noormah Mohd Noor.

"Any rail project is good for the country. It is the backbone of any country's economic development. That is very important. Look at Japan, they grew economically because of their rail development," she adds. "Similarly in China, they built 25,000 km of rail within a span of ten years; that is why China expanded so fast."

But cost remain a very important element in any public service infrastructure projects. If the figures of the government are to be relied on, these projects now cost more than RM100 billion collectively. This is why Noormah now casts a doubt on the efficacy of such projects.

"While the ECRL and MyHSR are good projects, the computation of costs of the projects needs to be improved," she says.

"We know that the ERL was built with a length 57 km at a cost of RM2.4 billion, which comes to about RM42 million per km. This is a double track project,” she says.

“I was also involved in Putra LRT, now called Kelana Line. It originally cost RM4.3 billion, is 29 km (in length) with 25 stations. The cost came to about RM120 to RM130 per km. This is because they are elevated, and some are underground. This is also a double track project. You see, now that's doable".

“But if you look at the new projects, the cost has ballooned to RM500 or RM600 per km. Worse still, it is a single track – at least for the ECRL. Now that's not doable anymore," she says.

So why has the cost ballooned?

"That's a difficult question to answer. I think it is because the costs have been jacked up unnecessarily," says Noormah bluntly. 

"If you look at the new figure released by the government for the ECRL, the cost is RM81 billion, which comes down to about RM600 mil per km. It is a single track, not even double track. I’m sure if the costs are this high, surely there’s other alternatives to moving goods and people in a more efficient manner," she says.

Watch the full interview below: 

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