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KUALA LUMPUR – Cargo load will be the more profitable sector for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) compared with passenger ridership as the rail link will provide a land bridge that will boost freight transactions and cut travel time significantly between Port Klang and Kuantan Port.

Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin said that cargo load would contribute an estimated 70 per cent to revenue versus 30 per cent for passenger traffic due to its shorter travel time and greater reliability as a mode of transport.

“The ECRL provides a land bridge between Port Klang and Kuantan Port, shortening travel time between the two ports by some 30 hours,

“As a result, ECRL provides for a faster alternative transfer of goods between the two ports compared with the much longer sea route,” he told Bernama in an interview Thursday.

He was responding to questions on the supplementary agreement signed last week between project owner Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and its joint venture partner China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) to manage, operate and maintain the ECRL rail network which would be built at a considerably lower cost.

Daim, the special envoy to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who managed to finalise the ECRL deal after nine months of negotiations, said the rail link would also connect Kuantan and Port Klang with the various industrial hubs, seaports, tourism nodes, and East coast state capitals.

In the process, it would stimulate new growth along the ECRL corridor, as a result of which would require reliable transport for the transfer of goods and passengers.

“We are expecting the cargo load to be the main contributor to the ECRL, but as development along the rail line and in the east coast increases, passenger load will also automatically increase,” he said.

As far as passenger traffic is concerned, “we are talking about people visiting their relatives and about tourists being provided with an alternative mode of transport to the east coast.”

“In that sense, we have to ensure that ticket prices are kept affordable,” he said.

To boost passenger traffic, he said the Pakatan Harapan government decided to re-route the ECRL so that it passes through Putrajaya Sentral, which is a far-sighted move as it will connect the east coast to the federal government administrative centre and “this is important for businesses.”

“This will also help increase passenger load for the ECRL,” Daim, said, adding the ECRL would now pass through five states – Selangor-Federal Territory-Putrajaya, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, under the renegotiated agreement as opposed to the original deal which covered only four states.

That means more people would stand to benefit from the spillover benefits of the ECRL project, he said.

-BERNAMA