ECRL not a done deal

Selangor says no agreement on route and no approval on land acquisition yet

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by BERNAMA

THE Selangor state government has put the brakes on the proposed Selangor portion of the billion ringgit East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) after the federal government announced changes to the plan recently.

Selangor investment, industry and commerce, and small and medium enterprises executive councillor Datuk Teng Chang Khim said the state will not approve land acquisition for the rail route proposed by Putrajaya because it contradicts with the state’s wishes.

Putrajaya recently announced that the ECRL will use the Northern Alignment into Selangor that was in the original plan proposed by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

In 2018, Selangor agreed to a different route for the rail, and wants the federal government to maintain the agreed route known as the Southern Alignment.

Speaking to reporters, Teng said the federal government had “bulldozed” the new alignment without proper engagement between the state and the Ministry of Transport (MoT).

He said the fact that the Cabinet approved the change of routes from what had been agreed between the state and the federal government was “disrespectful”.

Teng said MoT Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had implied that the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had agreed with the change to the Southern Alignment at a meeting on Sept 1, 2020.

The Cabinet approved the Southern Alignment the next day.

“There was no proper consultation, but they announced it. This is bulldozing without respecting the state,” Teng said at the launch of the Selangor International Business Summit in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“The minister is giving the impression implying that the Sultan had consented to the new alignment, which was not true. It was only a presentation.

“And this, I believe is disrespectful of Tuanku (Sultan of Selangor) because it is implying that he is meddling with the administration.

“You should not have used the name of Tuanku (Sultan of Selangor),” Teng said.

Teng said the Sultan of had instead mandated the Selangor state government to resolve the matter.

“The Sultan of Selangor passed the matter back to the state government because our officers are doing the study,” Teng explained.

On April 5, Wee announced that the ECRL project will revert to the original southern route that was approved by the BN government.

In response, Teng said the state government will not pursue land acquisition on behalf of the federal government if the route adopts the so-called ECRL 3.0 alignment, which goes from Temerloh, Pahang to Port Klang, Selangor via Bentong, Gombak and Serendah at an estimated cost of RM50 billion.

When the Pakatan Harapan government took over, it made a deal with Selangor that the line will go through Negri Sembilan and Putrajaya and through to Westports, at a lower projected cost of RM44 billion.

Wee has been urging the Selangor government to cooperate, claiming it costs RM1.2 million for each day that the project is delayed.

The minister had also said all concerns relating to the Sultan of Selangor have been ironed out and claimed that there have been 37 engagements with 17 state agencies.

However, Teng said, the MoT presentation was only focused on the environmental and social impacts without touching on the economic aspects. He said the state was looking forward to the alignment to reach Westports soonest possible.

Wee said a line connecting Port Klang to Westports would eventually be built to cater to Selangor’s priorities, but without a timeline.

“The minister said the new alignment will include Westports now, but there is no timeline given when this will be built. As of what we know now, it will only end at the Port Klang upon its completion in 2027,” Teng said.

He said the Southern Alignment will benefit Carey Island, an area which is located next to the Westports which the state wanted a new cargo hub to be developed. Through the northern approach, it would not be passing the area.

The ECRL Northern Alignment was heavily criticised in 2018, due to expensive tunnelling works that would be needed in Bentong. In addition, the rail construction in Gombak was said to disrupt the water catchment area.

On land matters, Teng said land surveys had been completed for the Southern Alignment when both governments agreed to change the route in 2018.

As such, Teng said it would take time to do another round of land survey and reinitiating the work would further delay ECRL completion.

“So, why not just continue as we have done the initial job? I cannot see the logic.”

When asked if the federal government would invoke Land Acquisition Act 1960 so the project can still take off as Putrajaya’s wish, Teng said only the state can do so on behalf of the federal government.

“Land belongs to the state and only the state can use the law to acquire land (parcels), including land (parcels) that are required by the federal government. The federal has no power,” Teng said.

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ECRL not a done deal