It looks like the East Coast Rail Link project will be given the go-ahead after some adjustments to the pricing and scopes of work.
To recap, the ECRL project was pushed at such a lightning speed that the agreements were not analysed in detail to check if the project truly benefits the country, its people and the local rail industry.
During the initial phase, there were some initiatives to provide some scopes of work to local contractors. However, these scopes are not really being discussed and they are certainly not expected to create much impact on the development of the local rail industry.
Though the ECRL project is financed by a foreign country and its entity(ies), one must remember that the development cost will be borne by the government of Malaysia.
One area the government should seriously look into is generating greater opportunities for local rail industry players, be it in rail infrastructure work or system packages.
The government should push the main contractor to work with competent and qualified local rail industry players as co-suppliers and system integrators.
In the initial stage, few opportunities were given in these segments to the local rail industry players. This situation also limited the involvement of local rail industry players who had contributed to or were actively involved in system packages in previous works in the country.
Another area of concern is the procurement of rolling stock for the project. Based on the original concept, this portion too would be entirely supplied by the foreign consortium partners, which again does not help the local rolling stock industry players.
Today, there are local industry players who have done well in assembly and system integration, and have the competency to co-manufacture rolling stocks for Malaysia.
Hence, it is hoped that the government will review all aspects pertaining to the ECRL project and come to a fair decision that will truly benefit the country and also steer the local rail industry. There must be a concerted effort to recognise the local rail industry players by giving them an opportunity to manufacture a fraction of the rolling stock needed and the sub-components as well.
Creating a sustainable local rail industry is also important as it is now an avenue for many young Malaysian engineers to master their skills and knowledge in rail engineering disciplines.