MRT Corp seeks fourth extension to finalise tenders for Circle Line

KUALA LUMPUR: The fate of the Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 (MRT3) project remains uncertain as MRT Corp has sought another three-month extension to finalise tenders for the multi-billion-ringgit rail development.

It is understood that MRT Corp had requested that the tender validity be extended to March next year.

This marks the fourth extension requested by MRT Corp since middle of this year, adding an air of suspense to the much-anticipated project.

Analysts had expected a joint venture between MMC Corp Bhd and Gamuda Bhd to "convincingly' bag CMC303, which at an estimated more than RM14 billion, will be the biggest work package among the potential MRT3's civil contracts.

IJM Corp Bhd and Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) were said to be frontrunners to secure other potential key civil contracts dubbed CMC301 and CMC302.

When contacted for updates on the circle line project and its tender process, an MRT Corp spokesperson said the project's status is as per Transport Minister Anthony Loke's announcement on Dec 21 that MRT Corp will start securing the MRT3 land corridor as early as the second quarter of 2024.

The spokesperson, however, said MRT Corp will not be making any comments on the tender process.

Loke, when addressing the media after the lease agreement signing ceremony between MRT Corp and the Federal Lands Commissioner last Thursday, revealed that the land acquisition process for the MRT 3 Circle Line project would commence in stages from next year, spanning a two-year timeline.

"To minimise the cost of land acquisition for the government, MRT Corp will actively cooperate with property developers to integrate the MRT3 stations," he said.

He added that the government had approved the allocation for the land acquisition process, without specifying the exact amount. 

The acquisition process is expected to involve 1,012 lots of land, covering 842 private lots, 133 government lots, and 37 lots of unknown ownership.

However, he noted that the alignment for MRT3 had yet to be finalised, leaving some aspects of the project subject to further clarification.

Nevertheless, the extension of MRT Corp chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zarif Hashim's contract for another two years brings certainty to the implementation of the MRT3. 

The extension, effective from November 1, is seen as crucial for the continuity and progress of the MRT3 and potentially Penang LRT project.

The total MRT3 cost is likely to approach RM40 billion, with an anticipated construction expenditure of around RM31 billion.

Since the change in government in November 2022, there has been a lack of updates on the tender's outcome.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had aimed to markedly reduce the project's cost in the revised 2023 Budget, from the previous administration's RM50 billion.

However, there was no allocation of funds for MRT3 in the 2024 Budget.

Analysts and construction industry stakeholders are dissatisfied with the sluggish progress of MRT3 and other major infrastructure projects announced in the last two budget cycles.

They are eagerly awaiting confirmation on the government's decision to move forward with MRT3 especially, now that there is clarity regarding the leadership of the project at MRT Corp.

Transport analyst Dr Rosli Azad Khan, speaking to Business Times, strongly advocates abandoning the MRT3 project for various reasons, highlighting its exorbitant cost and deeming it financially burdensome.

He questioned its overall utility, asserting that Klang Valley residents may not derive significant benefits. 

Citing the underperformance of MRT1 and MRT2 in achieving their ridership targets, Rosli expressed skepticism about the feasibility of expanding the metro network.

Instead, he proposes redirecting the allocated budget towards more impactful initiatives, specifically endorsing the implementation of advanced rapid transit systems in urban areas like Penang, Ipoh, JB, Melaka, Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu.

He argued that such alternatives could be executed at a fraction of the costs associated with MRT3.

Rosli also stressed that focusing significant resources only in Klang Valley is unfair and leads to imbalanced development, causing dissatisfaction in states like Johor.

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