Malaysia’s travel trade has welcomed the government’s move to resume the stalled East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multibillion-dollar project expected to boost the country’s economy and tourism sector.
Uzaidi Udanis, president, Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, remarked that improved rail connectivity will make travel within the country’s eastern seaboard more convenient for locals and foreign tourists, while boosting rural and community-based tourism. Small towns are expected to benefit, such as Jelebu, where ecotourism potentials are yet to be tapped, as well as Kuala Klawang, with fruit farms offering agrotourism opportunities.
He said: “Most tourists now go to the islands off Terengganu for snorkelling and water-based activities but Terengganu also offers plenty of land-based attractions which are now known mainly to locals. The ECRL will make it more convenient to travel there and in turn will create more job opportunities and economic benefits for Malaysians.”
Tourism Malaysia’s director-general, Musa Yusof said the revived ECRL project will “renew” interest in the country with several more cities made accessible.
He also told The Malaysian Reserve that state governments will have more reason to upgrade their public facilities, which will benefit both locals and tourists.
Malaysia’s prime minister Mahathir Mohamad recently announced the outcome of renegotiations with China after the project was postponed last year due to its high cost. After nine months of renegotiations, the government had successfully reduced the cost to RM44 billion (US$10.7 billion) from RM65 billion.
The new rail alignment, shortened by 40km to 648km, will see the number of stations reduced from 26 to 20. The 640km alignment will cut through five states, instead of four states which previously did not include Negri Sembilan. The five states are Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.
Arokia Das, director, Luxury Tours Malaysia, expressed relief that the new alignment will spare The Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, which is the longest pure quartz dyke in the world. He shared: “The area is also well for its soft and hard adventure products which includes jungle trekking and rock climbing.”
The ECRL project could resume as early as next month provided approvals from the relevant authorities are obtained. The completion date is December 31, 2026, two years later than the original plan.