OVER the last couple of weeks, the government had echoed its stand on the East Coast Rail Link project. Now, it looks like the ECRL will finally be given the go-ahead, with adjustments to the pricing and scope of work.
To recap the ECRL project was pushed at lightning speed, so much so; the agreements were not analysed in detail to check if this project truly brings a good return for the country, its people and the Malaysian rail industry.
During the initial phase there were some initiatives to provide some scope of work for Malaysian contractors but this was not much to be talked about. It certainly will not create an impact on the development of the Malaysian rail industry.
Though this project is financed by a foreign country, nevertheless one must remember in the end the amount will be paid for by the government of Malaysia. In this aspect, as the client, the government must see that this project benefits the country and the Malaysian rail industry.
One area the government should seriously look into is the generation of greater opportunities for Malaysian rail industry players, be it in rail infra works and system packages.
The government should push the main contractor to work with competent and qualified Malaysian rail industry players as co-suppliers and system integrators.
In the initial stage, not much opportunities were given in these segments for Malaysian rail industry players. This situation also limited the involvement of Malaysian rail industry players who had contributed and were actively involved in system packages in previous works in the country.
Another area of concern is the procurement of rolling stock for this project; based on the original concept, this portion too will be entirely supplied by the foreign consortium partners, which again does not propel the growth of Malaysian rolling stock industry players.
Today, there are Malaysian players who had done well in assembly, system integration, and have the competency to co-manufacture rolling stock for Malaysia.
The government should re-look all aspects of the ECRL and come to a fair decision, which truly benefits the country, and helps to steer the Malaysian rail industry players.
There must be a concerted effort to recognise Malaysian rail industry players and provide them an opportunity to offer, support and encouragement to manufacture a fraction of the rolling stock needs and sub-components.
Creating a sustainable Malaysian rail industry is also important as it is an avenue for many young Malaysian engineers to master skills and knowledge in rail engineering disciplines.