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Darwis Abdul Razak, chief executive officer of Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) which is the project owner, said if all goes well, work on the suspended project could start immediately. -NSTP/KHAIRUL AZHAR AHMAD

PUTRAJAYA: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project could resume as early as next month if approvals from the relevant authorities are obtained.

Darwis Abdul Razak, chief executive officer of Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) which is the project owner, said if all goes well, work on the suspended project could start immediately.

“We are looking at a one month window to restart the project. It’s highly likely to be next month," he told reporters after a press conference on the ECRL project by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister's Office here.

The ECRL project had been suspended for 10 months now, after its main contractor, China Communications Construction Ltd (CCCC) received a notice to suspend all work on July 4 last year.

Darwis said certain aspects of the project were still up for renegotiations, but admitted that results of previous negotiations between Malaysia and China helped to provide better financing provisions that benefited both sides.

He said the cost of the ECRL construction would be divided equally between MRL and CCCC, but MRL would enjoy up to 80 per cent of the profit.

Darwis also said re-negotiations on its loan were also being conducted.

"We are looking at a similar structure, which currently is 85 per cent from China's Exim (Export-Import Bank of China), while the remaining will be from local funding."

Darwis said the government was also negotiating to lower the interest rate from 3.25 per cent that was mentioned in the original agreement.

"It is being negotiated. Exim Bank is coming next week to address this."

He added that an initial seven-year repayment moratorium based on the original 20-year loan agreement was being re-negotiated to consider the new completion date which was pushed from 2024 to 2026.

The supplementary agreement for the ECRL project was signed in Beijing on Friday between MRL and CCCC.

Malaysia and China agreed to resume the construction of the ECRL project at a cost of RM44 billion, almost one-third cheaper than the originally proposed figure.

The RM21.5 billion savings to the country represented a 32.8 per cent reduction from the original construction cost of RM65.5 billion for the first two phases.

Among other things, changes were made to the original ECRL route to avoid the construction of an 18km tunnel cutting into the Titiwangsa range, subsequently reducing the overall cost of the multibillion-ringgit project.

The 640km alignment will cut through five states instead of four.

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