Another tunnelling breakthrough for Malaysia’s ECRL project

Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project recently marked another major milestone with a tunnel breakthrough at the 871 m single-bore Terowong Dungun in Terengganu, six months ahead of schedule, announced Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL).

The final blast at Terowong Dungun on 29 May 2021 broke through the last barrier some 12 m from the tunnel’s entrance portal. “This achievement is a culmination of approximately 641,520 man-hours and the adoption of the drill-and-blast method of tunnelling that bored through the moderately weathered schist rock,” stated MRL.

The company said tunnel excavation work for Terowong Dungun had progressed to 97.4% prior to the breakthrough, while its permanent lining had rose to a decent length of 702 m. With a tunnel height of 11.8 m and width of 12.9 m, Terowong Dungun was constructed to avoid major open cutting and to preserve forest reserve when travelling across the Kuala Dungun area.

The tunnel breakthrough at Terowong Dungun had taken place less than two months from the inaugural ECRL tunnel breakthrough at the 1.1-km Terowong Paka on 9 April 2021. Upon completion of the project, the state of Terengganu will feature five ECRL tunnels. Terowong Dungun was also the event site for the ECRL project’s relaunch ceremony on 25 July 2019.

Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, chairman of MRL, said the dedication and teamwork of some 100 ECRL personnel at all levels had paved the way for the tunnelling work and breakthrough at Terowong Dungun to be ahead of schedule, noting that the overall infrastructure work for the tunnel is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2022.

“The ECRL team including engineers, planners, and construction workers at Terowong Dungun ought to be congratulated as the tunnelling work which excavated some 98,111 cu m of soil and rock have been completed safely and with minimal ground movement,” he said, adding that Terowong Dungun is expected to be completed months ahead of schedule barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Tan Sri Mohd Zuki further explained that the ECRL project has 58 tunnels encompassing different lengths and landscape to be constructed along various sections of its 665-km rail alignment, and he anticipates that the strong collaboration and knowledge sharing between MRL and China Communications Construction (ECRL) Sdn Bhd (CCC-ECRL) can smoothen tunnel excavation and deliver such engineering feat as per schedule or even earlier.

“We are pleased that the ECRL project is still progressing slightly ahead of schedule at 22.62% as of May 2021, despite the Covid-19 pandemic which effectively reduces work hours and manpower at project sites,” he said.

MRL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Minister of Finance Incorporated (MOF Inc), is the project and asset owner of the ECRL while CCC-ECRL is the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contractor.

“Our team had made tremendous efforts to coordinate with our local contractors and Bumiputra project partners to ensure resources such as manpower, materials and machines are available where we need them,” said Bai Yinzhan, managing director of CCC-ECRL. “We are grateful for the support and understanding given by our subcontractors. Special thanks also go to our team in Section 4 for achieving two remarkable milestones within the short span of two months.”

Scheduled for completion by December 2026, the 665-km ECRL will traverse the East Coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang before linking the Klang Valley on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The ECRL will significantly cut travel time and connect Kota Bharu with ITT Gombak in approximately four hours.