Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link project achieves another tunnel breakthrough

The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project in Malaysia recently marked another milestone with a breakthrough at the 1.32-km Kampung Gedung Siam 3 Tunnel. This also signals the completion of tunnel excavations for Sections A and B of the project’s alignment, with a ceremony held on 25 August 2023.

Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) explained that the final excavation at the Kampung Gedung Siam 3 Tunnel punched through the last barrier about 126 m from the tunnel’s entrance portal. This achievement is a culmination of approximately 27,980 man-hours and the adoption of the drill-and-blast method that bored through primarily weathered sandstone.

The single bore Kampung Gedung Siam 3 Tunnel has an average height of 13.47 m and width of 13.02 m, which is adequate to accommodate two standard gauge railway tracks, said MRL. The tunnel’s permanent lining has also reached a length exceeding 1,113 m prior to the breakthrough.

The excavation works for the Kampung Gedung Siam 3 Tunnel commenced in January 2020, with a breakthrough planned for August 2023. The construction of the tunnel will enable the ECRL railway track to comply with its maximum gradient of 0.74% as well as avoid major open forest cutting in the area.

Among the 25 ECRL tunnels that have made their breakthrough so far, 21 of them are located within the project’s alignment in Section A (Kota Bharu-Dungun) and Section B (Dungun-Mentakab) while four are in Section C (Mentakab-Port Klang).

The ECRL project celebrated its first tunnel breakthrough at the 1.1-km Paka Tunnel in Terengganu six months ahead of schedule back in April 2021. The ECRL final design for construction features 40 tunnels totalling approximately 69 km in length along its rail alignment from Kota Bharu to Port Klang. [Scroll down to watch a video of the ECRL site progress].

MRL chairman, Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, said, “We wish to commend the commitment and teamwork of the ECRL workforce at Kampung Gedung Siam 3 Tunnel, which saw 167,830 cu m of soil and rock excavated safely and with minimal ground movement throughout. The achievement will also enable the civil works for this tunnel to be fully completed by April 2024.”

He mentioned that the ECRL project is also pleased with the completion of critical works involving installation of long-span bridges (108 m each) at five locations in Sections A and B as well as successful tunnel excavation works in Sections A and B, adding that the installation of ECRL tracks will be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2023 beginning with the rail alignment from Gebeng to Dungun.

According to MRL, the ECRL project has reached an overall completion rate of 48.77% [as of 25 Aug 2023], paving the way for completion of the rail infrastructure from Kota Bharu to the Gombak Integrated Transport Terminal in December 2026. The project’s full completion which involves rail extension from Gombak to Port Klang is scheduled for December 2027.

China Communications Construction (ECRL) Sdn Bhd (CCC-ECRL) managing director, Kong Qi, commented, “Today’s tunnel breakthrough marks another significant milestone in our quest to construct the 40-tunnel ECRL. It is a testament to our team’s dedication and expertise, pushing the boundaries of construction technology. While we forge connections that bridge communities and propel progress, we thank MRL, our vendors, subcontractors, local government agencies, local communities and our teams along the alignment for their contribution and support."

MRL, a wholly owned subsidiary of the 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. 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.