By Annabelle Lee

The proposed alignment for the Selangor portion of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is now up for public inspection.

Dubbed “Section C2”, it begins in Gombak and runs through Serendah, Puncak Alam and Kapar before terminating at Port Klang.

This is also known as the “northern alignment” as it traverses through the northern region of the Klang Valley. The latest track differs from the BN-era track proposed during the Najib Razak administration.

The Selangor government has made clear its objection against this alignment and preference for the Pakatan Harapan-era “southern alignment”.

Even so, project owner Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) targets construction for this portion of the ECRL to begin in December 2021.

This article provides an overview of Section C2 of the ECRL based on the detailed proposed alignment map and its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report.

Overview

A defining feature of the latest alignment is the 14km-long “Serendah tunnel” that allows it to travel beneath two forest reserves.

It also has portions under and over rivers that serve as water sources for the Klang Valley.

The proposed track will have two passenger and freight stations – Serendah Baru and Jalan Kastam.

It will also accommodate two future or “provisional” passenger stations – Puncak Alam and Kapar.

Serendah Baru

The ECRL alignment enters Selangor from Bentong in Pahang through Gombak before splitting in two directions.

The amended C1 track will head south towards the new Gombak North EMU Yard, where trains will be parked when not in operation before terminating at the ITT Gombak station.

Elevated parts of the alignment will travel above Jalan Sheikh Mohd Noor in Kampung Sungai Chin Chin as well as through Kampung Desa Mukmin Permai next to SMK Sungai Pusu.

The other C2 track will enter an underground tunnel and take a sharp right northwest direction.

The beginning of the tunnel is located about 5km upstream from the Wangsa Maju water intake point along Sungai Gombak.

This “Serendah tunnel” stretches 14km and travels beneath the Ulu Gombak permanent forest reserve and the Serendah permanent forest reserve.

The tunnel will also travel under Sungai Batu, a river that flows into Batu Dam – used for water supply and flood control.

Based on the EIA report, two shallow tunnels (called adits) will surface at both sides of the Sungai Batu river bank to discharge treated wastewater generated from constructing the main ECRL tunnel.

The tunnel will surface at ground level outside the Serendah permanent forest reserve and be elevated as it crosses Sungai Serendah and skirts around Serendah town.

It will cut through about 20 houses in Kampung Dato’ Harun and Kampung Tok Pinang before arriving at Serendah Baru station.

Puncak Alam

From Serendah, the alignment will be slightly southwest.

Elevated portions will cross over Sungai Garing and Sungai Kundang. Both rivers are at least 11km upstream of Sungai Selangor – the main water source for Klang Valley residents.

Next, 2.8km of the track will cut across the Rantau Panjang permanent forest reserve.

Construction for this portion – which comprises ground-level, elevated and underground tracks – will result in the forest being cleared.

The alignment will also come within 150m of M Residences – an existing housing area in Rawang.

It will continue travelling southwest, mostly at ground-level, until the site for the future Puncak Alam station, which will be near residential areas like Taman Alam Suria, Tierra Alam Suria and Bayu Suria.

A portion of the track will be elevated above the existing road Persiaran Puncak Alam 11.

Kapar

From Puncak Alam, the ECRL alignment will be directed south, towards Kapar.

Most of the track will be at ground level, cutting across oil palm estates, with elevated portions above existing roads like Persiaran Hamzah Alang.

According to the alignment map and EIA, the site of the future Kapar station will be 200m away from where the future Kapar public hospital will be.

Jalan Kastam

From Kapar, the track will remain elevated for most of the way as it travels south towards Port Klang.

Along the way, it will travel parallel above Lorong Sungai Puloh before swerving slightly southwest above Sungai Puloh, the North Klang Straits Bypass and Sungai Klang.

The track will return to ground level and cut through 81 plots in Taman Sireh Pinang before arriving at the Jalan Kastam terminus.

People, water, wildlife

According to the EIA report, no Orang Asli settlements will be directly affected by the proposed alignment.

However, four such settlements are located within 2km of the track – Kampung Orang Asli Batu 12, Kampung Orang Asli Ulu Batu, Kampung Orang Asli Serendah and Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Kelubi.

In total, constructing the ECRL C2 alignment will result in 11.5ha in forest loss. This is equivalent to the size of 16 football fields.

This will be mostly in the Rantau Panjang Permanent Forest Reserve (10.6ha) plus 0.9ha of the Ulu Gombak Permanent Forest Reserve, where the Serendah Tunnel begins.

According to the EIA report, the elevated and underground portions of the track will not result in habitat fragmentation for wildlife.

However, there is concern about a possible conflict between wildlife and local communities when trees are cut during construction.

Local communities possibly exposed to this risk include those at M Residences and Jalan Batu Arang, along with the Serendah Tunnel construction team.

Potential illegal poaching activity via access roads is also a concern.

Among the species found in the affected forest reserves are the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin and the endangered Malayan Tapir.

Furthermore, the alignment will make 20 river crossings across three water catchments – Sungai Klang, Sungai Selangor and Sungai Buloh.

These rivers flow into six water intake points – Wangsa Maju, Batu, Rantau Panjang along with SSP1, 2 and 3.

Potential risks include soil, untreated sewage or diesel from ECRL construction sites polluting these rivers.

Once operational, untreated sewage from ECRL stations or accidental cargo spills are also a risk to water quality.

Ado over alignment

Despite the public inspection ending in about seven weeks, Putrajaya and the Selangor government continue to disagree on this final portion of the ECRL route.

MRL contends that the northern alignment will create interchange opportunities for the ECRL and KTM at the Serendah Baru and Jalan Kastam passenger and freight stations.

“It will provide relief to the existing KTMB network as it will allow KTMB freight trains from (the) north to bypass Kuala Lumpur and head directly to Port Klang.

“And this alignment traverses through more developed areas and industries, and has higher freight and ridership compared to the previous alignment,” it said in a public inspection document sighted by Malaysiakini.

The “southern alignment” preferred by the Selangor government traverses through Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat, Bangi and Putrajaya before the Port Klang terminus.

The state government contends that this route is more in line with its economic development plans.

The state government has jurisdiction over land use and executive councillor Ng Sze Han recently said that no approval had been given for the northern alignment.

As for why the current route differs from the BN-era alignment, the EIA report explained that it was to avoid cutting across the Batu Dam and a housing area in Taman Jasa Utama, Batu Caves.

It also wants to reduce land acquisition costs by skirting around Serendah town, rather than cutting through it.

For a similar reason, it skirts around Kampung Delek and Kampung Sireh Tambahan plus avoids the Pulau Kapas landfill, unlike the former BN-era alignment.

The C2 portion of the ECRL is up for a public inspection from now until Nov 23.

Public inspection documents can be accessed online via the MRL website or in person at the Agensi Pengangkutan Awam Darat (Apad) office in Kuala Lumpur.

For in-person inspections, appointments must be made via email at feedback@mrl.com.my.

Responses for or against the C2 portion can be filed online here.

The full EIA report is also available for public perusal.