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KUALA LUMPUR: The shortened East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will be relaunched this month and local contractors can bid for 40 per cent of the project, especially the civil works such as construction of stations and depot, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

"The ECRL project relaunch date is set on July 25. Yes, I can confirm 40 per cent of the project will be available to local contractors participation," he said.

"We also invite transit-oriented development throughout the corridor of the realigned ECRL," Loke told reporters after officiating at the opening of "Women in Rail" conference held here today.

The minister's assurance is as provided in the re-negotiated ECRL contract signed in China, a few months ago.

On April 12, 2019, in Beijing, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) and China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) signed a supplementary agreement that resumes the suspended ECRL project, at a lower price.

The new ECRL alignment is now shortened by 40km from 688km to 648km, as it no longer tunnels through the Titiwangsa Main Range that borders Selangor and Pahang.

It starts from Kota Bahru in Kelantan and runs south through Mentakab, Jelebu, Kuala Kelawang, Bangi/Kajang, Putrajaya, and terminating at Port Klang.

Right after the signing of a supplementary agreement between MRL and CCCC, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said ECRL project cost was slashed to RM44 billion, RM21.5 billion cheaper than its original cost of RM65.5 billion signed on by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in October 2016.

He also assured Malaysian contractors' participation in the civil works of ECRL project would be raised to 40 per cent compared to just 30 per cent under the previous government.

Earlier, Malaysia and Singapore governments had agreed on more time to September 30, 2019, to negotiate further on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) to cut project cost from an estimated RM4 billion.

The 4km RTS links Woodlands North station on Singapore's Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru is designed with the capacity to ferry 10,000 passengers an hour.

"We hope to announce good news on the RTS before the September 2019 deadline," Loke said.

Under the previous government, the idea of a National Rail Centre of Excellence (NRCOE) was mooted but never materialised. Now, Loke said he plans to pool resources to have a dedicated academy for skills training development related to rail transport industries.

"We have Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) running the national rail network, Prasarana operating mainly the urban metro and buses, Agensi Pengangkutan Awam Darat (APAD) as the regulator, Express Rail Link (ERL) as a private company running the airport express, in the future we will have MRL operating East Coast Rail Link.

"We plan to consolidate all the training resources into one Centre of Excellence. We're looking at upgrading the training facility at Batu Gajah," Loke said.

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