New railway to link KL to Kelantan

Proposed 600km track to spur economic development in three eastern states: Najib

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is planning a 600km railway line linking Tumpat in northern Kelantan to Kuala Lumpur, with the link passing through the east coast states of Pahang and Terengganu, which do not have rail networks currently.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the East Coast Rail Link would be a catalyst for further growth in the three Malay-majority eastern states.

"This will spur a new wave of development to realise the socio-economic potential for the East Coast," the New Straits Times (NST) quoted him as saying at the launch of a meeting on land transportation on Monday.

The rail project is part of a bigger ongoing plan to boost the economy of these states under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) master- plan. "It will be the backbone transport infrastructure for the ECER," Datuk Seri Najib said.

He did not mention the project's cost or starting date, with the massive undertaking coming at a time when the commodities-exporting country is keen to trim government spending due to lower oil and gas prices and slower palm oil exports.

The government is currently building a RM22 billion (S$7.3 billion) mass rapid transit system with 68 stations in Greater Kuala Lumpur, which is expected to be progressively ready by next year.

The Najib administration in July completed the RM8 billion expansion of the light rail transit (LRT) system in Greater Kuala Lumpur by adding 25 LRT stations, bringing their total number to 110.

Another upcoming project is the high-speed railway linking KL to Singapore. Last July, Malaysia launched its first electric train system (ETS) linking Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar in Perlis, at the Thai border. The ETS travels faster than the existing Malayan Railways (KTM) trains.

The proposed KL-Tumpat line is to pass through the Pahang capital of Kuantan and Terengganu's capital of Kuala Terengganu along the South China Sea coast, according to a map published by NST yesterday. The link will then move north to Kota Baru, Kelantan's capital, before ending at Tumpat.

To travel to Tumpat from KL currently, a commuter has to first take a KTM train south to Gemas town in Negeri Sembilan.

The new KL-Tumpat line will shorten travel time to six hours using "fast trains", NST said, versus 12 hours now on the Gemas-Tumpat KTM link. Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu are linked to KL via highways and airlines at present.

In the political context, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan are Malay-majority rural states from which Mr Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) draws its strength. Kelantan is ruled by opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which is working closely with BN's lead party, Umno. Pahang is Mr Najib's home state.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'New railway to link KL to Kelantan'. Print Edition | Subscribe