KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — The government’s move to halt the China-funded East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is taking a toll on locals and businesses, The Strait Times reported today.
The Singapore paper reported people from Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu lamenting the loss of potential income from the decision, as most were banking on the rail link to spur business.
Some of those interviewed also said the project could have stemmed the exodus of young people to larger cities in search of better jobs.
“There was a plan to turn this town into an inland port,” a man by the name of Rozlan, from Temerloh, Pahang, was quoted saying.
“That would have kept people like my kids from heading out to Kuantan or Kuala Lumpur for jobs,” he added.
Construction suppliers are among those worst hit by the stop-work, the paper reported.
The ECRL would have created businesses opportunities like building drainage and supply of various goods like LED screens and stationery, Yusri Yusof, president of Pahang’s Malay Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying.
“They were anticipating the chance to be suppliers,” he said.
“The project should still be continued. Even with a reduced number of stations, or if the rail is built in phases.”
The rail link would have run through three east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. All three are governed by the opposition, PAS and Barisan Nasional.
The former BN government had last year touted the double-track railway as a game changer, claiming it would allow people and goods to be transported from Kuantan Port to Port Klang, Malaysia’s main shipping hub in the Strait of Malacca.
But the project was among those nixed shortly after Pakatan Harapan took federal power. The new administration said it cannot afford the RM81 billion project as it grapples with debts of over RM1 trillion.
Opposition leaders, like Umno’s Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin, claimed the ECRL had been the target of political vilification.
“The east coast would be left behind. The three states the rail runs through don’t belong to Pakatan.
“How are we supposed to think it’s not politically motivated?” ST quoted him as saying.
The stop-work order took force in July. Putrajaya since then said the project would only continue if the costs are scaled down.