BENTONG (Pahang) • Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said he will try with Prime Minister Najib Razak to get a soft loan from China for the proposed RM55 billion (S$18.3 billion) East Coast Rail Link during their visit to Beijing starting next week.
Datuk Seri Najib last week announced the plan to build a new 600km line linking Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan capitals. He mentioned the project's total cost for the first time in his Friday Budget speech, saying the project will be built in stages.
Mr Najib had said that the East Coast Rail Link would be a catalyst for further growth in the three Malay-majority eastern states, with the line ending in Tumpat town in northern Kelantan.
The rail project is part of a bigger plan to boost the economy of these three states under the East Coast Economic Region masterplan. To travel to Tumpat from KL currently, a commuter has to first take a Malayan Railways (KTM) train south to Gemas town in Negeri Sembilan.
Datuk Seri Liow said the first phase of the rail line is the construction from KL to Kuantan, capital of Pahang state. It will pass Kuantan Port, the biggest port on the Malaysian east coast that faces the South China Sea. He hoped that the project could begin next year and be completed by 2022.
The rail project, Mr Liow said, would allow Kuantan Port to become a hub where cargo from east Asia could pass through Kuantan to reach Port Klang in the Strait of Malacca and vice versa.
The KL-Tumpat line will shorten travel time to six hours using "fast trains", the New Straits Times newspaper said last week, half the time now needed on the Gemas-Tumpat KTM link. Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu are linked to KL via highways and airlines currently.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK