Monday, April 12, 2021

ECRL3.0 – Why the silence on Azmin Ali, Ahmad Yunus Khairi and Dr Xavier Jayakumar?

Media statement by PH-DAP ADUN for Banting, Selangor LAU Weng San on 12th April 2021 in Banting:

It comes as a total shock to the people of Selangor and Kuala Langat when Minister of Transport Wee Ka Siong arbitrarily announced on 5th April 2021 that the Federal Government has that Section C of the ECRL from Mentakab to Port Klang has been reverted to the original Northern Alignment as proposed in 2016.

It was also reported that this is following the cabinet's decision on 2nd Sept 2020, which approved the alignment, and in another meeting on 31st March 2021, pushed for immediate implementation of the northern alignment project, which connects Mentakab to Port Klang through Bentong, Gombak and Serendah.

I wonder if the former Menteri Besar of Selangor Azmin Ali, who was part of the Cabinet meeting on 2nd Sept 2020 and 31st March 2021, could shed some light on such decision as the state government under his leadership in 2016 and 2017 has been extremely critical and was in disagreement of the Northern Alignment.

The Southern Alignment was proposed and adopted by both Selangor state government and the then Pakatan Harapan federal government after 2019 when Azmin Ali was the then Economic Affairs Minister.

Ironically, after the fall of Pakatan Harapan federal government in February 2020, the turncoat minister, who managed to retain his cabinet position, has not been shedding a light at all on how the Section C Alignment can be reverted to the 2016 Northern Alignment.

Together with about 31 photos and slides posted by Wee Ka Siong in two Facebook postings dated 5th and 6th April 2021, there are very little credible information on hand to support Wee’s statement that the Northern Alignment with minor amendments is a better alignment.

The Southern Alignment will benefit mostly the people of Sijangkang in specific and the people of Kuala Langat in general. Therefore, I also urge PAS Selangor Assemblyman for Sijangkang, Dr Ahmad Yunus Khairi and Kuala Langat MP, Dr Xavier Jayakumar, who is now an independent MP supportive of the Federal Government under the leadership of Perikatan Nasional not too long ago, to also come forward to explain to the people of Kuala Langat on why a sudden charge of alignment. Their collective silence on this matter is clearly deafening.

The questions or concerns they should answer or assist the Ministry of Transport to answer are:

1.    Little information available on Northern alignment in public domain. Justification with solid researches and feasibility studies are needed as ECRL has never been an affordable project in the first place.

Despite all the slides published by the Minister in his social media platform, no further citation was quoted to reflect and strengthen their arguments. In short, what Wee Ka Siong said publicly or posted in social media are bare talks or political rhetoric.

For example, Northern Alignment could have affected less residential area, less Orang Asli/Malay reserve land and less land acquired but it does not reveal the number of houses or households affected.

It does not reveal the acreage of the size of reserve land affected. For Southern Alignment, most of these works are almost completed and the figure presented are close to accurate. The same cannot be said for the Northern Alignment.

There are also saying that the Northern Alignment can further spur the capacity of ECRL as it is estimated that ECRL3.0 can carry 26 million tonnes of cargo even in the first year of its operation, which is more than 4 times of KTMB’s current nationwide cargo transportation capacity. The logic behind it is that Serendah Bypass could serve more cargo from northern Peninsula.

However, one must not forget that Penang Port is currently the third largest deepwater seaport in Malaysia and is handling about 1.5 million TEUs containers annually (full capacity of a twenty-foot container is about 50,000 lb or 23 metric tonnes), which is on an increasing trend since ten years ago. The Ministry of Transport must explain how these figures can be translated into 26 million metric tonnes of cargo annually in 2027?

2.    Serious doubt on cost justification – There will be more civil engineering works under the new version of Northern Alignment, which includes tunneling cost and the construction of the two draw bridges linking Jalan Kastam station with both North Port and West Port.

It is public knowledge that tunneling cost is always an expensive elements in any civil engineering works. Also, land acquisition for the Northern Alignment largely consists of residential, commercial and industrial lands whereas there are more agriculture lands on the Southern Alignment.

Until and unless the Ministry of Transport reveals more information, the statement that the cost of ECRL2.0 to cost only RM50 billion is lower than the cost of ECRL2.0 through Southern Alignment and the construction of Serendah Bypass combined does not hold water.

One should not forget the strategic position of Nilai to serve as an equivalent important inland port and cargo hub for the southern part of the Peninsula. In addition to that, KLIA Sepang and Putrajaya are located within the vicinity of ECRL3.0 to boost connectivity. Ideally speaking, the construction of Serendah Bypass and ECRL2.0 passing through Nilai will be the best available option

3.    Land acquisition cost – If Selangor State Government were to assist in the land acquisition on behalf of the Federal Government now, then the cost estimation will be based on current value, which will be much higher as compared to the Southern Alignment. Moreover, technical studies, including feasibility studies, cost and survey for land acquisition for Southern Alignment has commenced since 2019 and are based on land value two years ago.

Since the Federal Government has decided to accelerate the progress of the construction of Section C of ECRL, then the natural option will be picking up an option to avoid cost increment due to unforeseen circumstances, which are highly possible in many mega projects. With Southern Alignment, MRL can immediately roll into action without further delay. Given that time is of essence and this project cannot sustain any cost overrun due to time delay, is it not advisable to take the Southern Alignment rather than to risk more uncertainties with Northern Alignment?

Azmin Ali, Ahmad Yunus Khairi and Dr Xavier Jayakumar have not uttered a single word on ECRL3.0 for one week since its announcement on 5th April. I wish that they could break the deafening silence and provide the people of Kuala Langat the long awaited answers.

LAU Weng San.
Member of Selangor State Legislative Assembly for Banting, Kuala Langat.

No comments: