KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese-made tunnel boring machine (TBM1) for excavation works on Malaysia's mega rail project, being built by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), has officially started its operations on Thursday.
The machine, one of two made by CCCC Tianhe Mechanical Equipment Manufacturing Co Ltd, will spearhead the excavation works for the 16.39 km twin-bore Genting Tunnel, CCCC and Malaysia Rail Link (MRL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia's Ministry of Finance and ECRL project owner, said in a joint statement.
The milestone was marked by a ceremony witnessed by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob who joined Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing, CCCC Vice President Sun Ziyu, among other guests.
In his remarks, Ismail Sabri said the project will connect various population centers as well as industrial parks to ensure a more effective and well connected public transport system.
He said this would be achieved with new technology such as the TBM which provides a high-tech alternative to the traditional drill and blast method used previously in tunneling projects and said the ECRL would provide a boost to the country's economic development by connecting two important ports across both sides of the Peninsula Malaysia.
"The construction of this twin-bore Genting Tunnel is a key component of the ECRL project which will complete a land bridge for cargo transportation from Kuantan Port to Port Klang," he added.
TBM1's head alone weighs 900 tons with an 8.98-meter diameter cutter head. Along with its supporting back that houses the control room, the entire TBM1 weighs 1,600 tons and measures 266 meters in length.
Echoing the prime minister's comments, Wee said the ECRL will see a positive spillover effect, providing employment and boosting economic development and creating new opportunities.
"Indeed, this is the main objective of the construction of the ECRL, that is to benefit the surrounding community, boost local economic growth and open up job opportunities, in addition to building efficient transportation connectivity that provides benefits to the country," he said.
For his part, Sun said the project is not only a landmark of bilateral cooperation but a symbol of progress and people-to-people connectivity between both countries.
"CCCC will live up to the high expectations of all social sectors from Malaysia and China, to carry out the ECRL construction as a 'top priority project', and construct with the most elite talents, most advanced technology, the best equipment, and the strictest standards," he said.
"CCCC will work closely together with MRL to build ECRL into a green project, a safe project, a talent-fostering project, a people benefit project, and an innovation project," he added.
The ECRL runs from Malaysia's largest transport hub Port Klang and travels across the peninsula to Kelantan state in northeastern Malaysia. The rail link is expected to greatly enhance connectivity and bring more balanced growth to the country by linking its less-developed region on the East Coast to the economic heartland on the West Coast upon its completion in December 2026. ■