With 18 months to go before the opening of Kuala Lumpur's airport rail link, civil works are nearing completion and tracklaying is getting under way

Dr Aminuddin Adnan,
Chief Executive Officer, Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd

MALAYSIA: On July 27 Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi officiated at a ceremony in Salak Tinggi to lay the foundation stone for the Express Rail Link Maintenance & Administrative centre. He also unveiled the designs for the livery which will adorn ERL's fleet of Siemens-built trains.

The 160 km/h service between the centre of Kuala Lumpur and its new International Airport (KLIA) is due to be launched in April 2002. Construction work is in full swing along the 57 km corridor. Civil engineering at present is concentrating on the earthworks, drainage and bridges, but construction work has started on the stations and the maintenance & administrative centre, which includes the Operations Control Centre. Systems engineering is also getting under way, starting with the trackwork, power supplies and the overhead catenary.

The Express Rail Link is a key component of the Malaysian government's strategy to enhance KLIA as a transport hub for the region. At the same time, the new Sentral Station will become the main transport hub for Kuala Lumpur, integrating the ERL and its related Commuter Rail Service (CRS), main line and Komuter services operated by the national railway Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad, the Putra automated light metro and the KL Monorail serving the so-called Golden Triangle.

On August 25 1997 Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a private company owned by Tabung Haji Technologies Sdn Bhd and YTL Corporation Berhad, was awarded a 30-year concession by the government to finance, build, operate and maintain the ERL-CRS system. Total cost of the project is 2·4bn ringgit. In turn, ERL awarded an Engineering, Procurement & Construction contract on May 3 1999 to the SYZ Consortium - a joint-venture between Siemens AG of Germany, Siemens Electrical Engineering Sdn Bhd and Syarikat Pembenaan Yeoh Tiong Lay Sdn Bhd (RG 7.99 p432).

Construction progress

The consortium is proceeding actively with both the civil works and systems engineering. By the end of August, 59% of civil works and 24·5% of system works had been completed. ERL expects that 80% of the civil engineering will be completed by the end of this year.

The 57 km alignment has been divided into seven sectors. Earthworks and ancillary works are in progress in all sectors. Five bridges have been completed, and another 25 are in various stages of construction. Intermediate and capping layers for the completed sub-grade are being installed on Sectors 2, 3, 6 and 7 ahead of the start of tracklaying.

Design and architectural layout for the intermediate stations at Bandar Tasik Selatan, Putrajaya, and Salak Tinggi is nearing completion. Building work has started for the Maintenance & Administrative Centre at Salak Tinggi, beginning with the main workshop and the servicing platforms in the train stabling yard.

A critical component of the project is the KL City Air Terminal, which will provide full airline check-in, and check-out facilities and other airport services. The KL CAT will be located within the new Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station, located at Brickfields, just south of the historic KTMB Central station. The new station was over 83% complete by the end of July, but the developer is currently concentrating on providing access for KTMB and Putra light rail services. Sentral Station is due to open to the public for these operations at the beginning of 2001, more than a year ahead of the ERL launch.

At KLIA, design and construction of the CRS station is being undertaken by the main airport developer KLIAB, as part of the overall Master Plan for the Terminal buildings. Construction of this station is expected to commence shortly, with completion envisaged by June 30 2001. The ERL station at the main terminal has already been completed, and fitting out of the electrical and mechanical equipment is in progress.

Systems engineering and integration works are progressing in accordance with the master implementation programme. Trackwork, overhead catenary, traction power supply, signalling, automatic train protection and the operations control, telecommunications and Scada systems are at an advanced stage of detailed design.

The first rails were delivered from Europe on July 11, allowing tracklaying to get under way on July 19. The following day saw the arrival of materials from South Korea and Japan for the fabrication of catenary masts in nearby Seremban; installation of the power supply equipment began on June 22.

System design is paying particular attention to the suitability of the components in a tropical environment, as required by the local regulatory authority, the Department of Railways. Further tests have to be conducted by the Turnkey Contractor to demonstrate the adaptation of various components for tropical conditions. Detailed design of the rolling stock bodyshells and mechanical systems to take into account the tropical climate is progressing.

Conceptual design is on schedule for the air/rail interfaces, such as the baggage handling system and the check-in and check-out facilities. The government's Economic Planning Unit, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Finance and the airlines are all involved with the development and implementation of the check-out system, which will allow arriving air travellers to check their baggage straight through to the City Air Terminal for local collection.


From April 2002, ERL will offer a direct service between the city centre and KLIA, with a journey time of less than 30min, and a 15 min frequency. Two months later will see the start of CRS operations, serving the new catchment areas around Bandar Tasik Selatan, Putrajaya and Salak Tinggi. CRS journey time will be 37 min, with a basic hourly service.

Siemens is supplying a fleet of 12 four-car EMUs, derived from the German ET425 design, with a maximum speed of 160 km/h. Eight of the sets will be fitted out for ERL services, with 156 seats offering an ambience similar to business class air travel. They will also have a sealed area in one driving car for checked baggage. The other four units will be dedicated to the CRS operation, with accommodation for 540 passengers - 144 seated and 396 standing.

Assembly of the aluminium-bodied EMUs was scheduled to start on September 17, and be completed by March 19 2002. The first units are due to start test running in Germany in March 2001, with deliveries to Malaysia between September 8 and May 4 2002. Delivery of the first unit will allow Systems Integration tests to begin in October 2001, with trial operation of the ERL service scheduled to start in January 2002. Trial running for the CRS will follow in May 2002, once the last units have been delivered.