A mega railway to be built by China was officially launched on Wednesday in the Malaysian city of Kuantan, a milestone for China-Malaysia ties as China pushed forward the Belt and Road Initiative.
At a cost of 55 billion ringgit (12.83 billion U.S. dollars), the 688-km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) will help upgrade public transportation infrastructure in the east coast, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak when inaugurating the ground-breaking ceremony of the project.
The ECRL is the first artery railway built in the east coast, which has been connected to the west coast only "via a network of roads and highways, and small rail lines that were woefully inadequate."
Describing the project as a game-changer for Malaysia, Najib said it will significantly cut travel time from Gombak in suburban Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baru in the northeastern state of Kelantan from seven to four hours.
The railway will be built by China Communications Construction Company Ltd., a leading transportation infrastructure group that also built a landmark bridge in the northwestern state of Penang.
Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong also attended the ceremony.
The ECRL will be an electric railway line crossing Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Selangor states. It will accommodate passenger trains at a maximum speed of 160 km per hour and goods trains at a maximum speed of 80 km per hour. Construction of the rail link is expected to be completed by 2024.
The Export-Import Bank of China financed 85 percent of the railway with soft loans, while the Malaysian government provided the remaining 15 percent via issuing bonds, according to Najib.