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Express Rail Link brings the train to the plane

01 Jul 1999

Construction of a 57 km electrified route between Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the city centre is now under way. Under a 30-year concession awarded to the private sector, express and commuter services are due to begin operating in 2002

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

The Express Rail Link project is a key component of the Malaysian government's strategy to develop Kuala Lumpur International Airport as a regional hub. At the same time, the route's city centre terminus at KL Central is being developed as a major transport interchange, where passengers will be able to transfer to KTM main line and commuter services, the Putra automated light metro and the PRT monorail (RG 9.97 p618).

Express Rail Link Sdn Bhd, owned by the Malaysian companies Tabung Haji Technologies Sdn Bhd and YTL Corporation Berhad, was awarded a 30-year concession by the government on August 25 1997 to finance, construct, operate and maintain the ERL system. However, the economic downturn in Asia affected the overall cost of the project and forced us to review our financial position. The high volatility in foreign exchange coupled with the limited availability of local funds delayed implementation, but strong support from the government has made it possible to reactivate the project.

The total project cost of 2·4bn ringgit is being financed locally by a combination of up to 500m ringgit in equity and a 940m ringgit loan from Bank Pembangunan dan Infrastruktur Malaysia Bhd. In addition, facility agent Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank, Dresdner Bank and Bank Gesellschaft Berlin are lending a total of DM665m under an agreement signed on April 30 1999, with up to DM450m covered by the German export credit agency Hermes Kreditversicherung.

Construction begins

Substantial preliminary work at Central station for the Kuala Lumpur City Air Terminal and within the Putra Jaya wetlands was under way by this time, and in December 1998 construction of the depot and control centre had begun at Salak Tinggi. With finance in place, a turnkey engineering and construction contract was awarded on May 3 this year to the SYZ consortium, comprising Siemens AG, Siemens Electrical Engineering Sdn Bhd and civil works contractor Syarikat Pembenaan Yeoh Tiong Lay Sdn Bhd. In order to launch Express Rail Link services by April 2002 and the Commuter Rail Service two months later, civil work is now very much in progress. This includes the formation, drainage work and bridges such as the 1·9 km viaduct across Sungai Labu near the airport.

To be electrified at 25 kV 50Hz AC throughout its 57 km length, the double-track 1435mm gauge route follows existing KTM tracks south from KL Central, branching off through the Universiti Putra Malaysia. From here it follows the Multi-Media Super Corridor to the new government administration centre at Putra Jaya, heading on to Kuala Lumpur International Airport via Salak Tinggi where depot construction is in progress. The route will be equipped with continuous ATP and bi-directional signalling, and platform loops will allow the Commuter Rail Service to call at the intermediate stations of Bandar Tasik Selatan, Putra Jaya and Salak Tinggi.

Siemens is supplying 12 four-car ET425 EMUs, each with two motor and two trailer cars. Designed for operation at up to 160 km/h, the EMUs will feature regenerative braking and all cars will be air-conditioned. Four EMUs with a capacity of 540 seated and standing passengers each will be operated on the Commuter Rail Service. Journey time with three intermediate stops will be 37min, with a 30min frequency at peak times.

Non-stop Express Rail Link services will be operated by eight EMUs, each with a luggage compartment and seats for 156 passengers in an airline business class ambience. Journey time will be under 30min, with trains operating around the clock and every 15min at peak hours. ERL trains will be equipped with a passenger information system and toilets, with customer service staff on board to assist passengers.

In-town check-in

At Central station, the Kuala Lumpur City Air Terminal is being built to provide check-in and other facilities usually found only at the airport. Outbound passengers will be able to check in their baggage at KL CAT, board the train and proceed directly to immigration clearance and the departure gates upon arrival at the airport. Express Rail Link will also be the first airport service to provide a full-scale check-through service to the city terminal. Inbound travellers will be able to check their baggage through to KL CAT, where after collecting it they will proceed through customs.

In addition to check-in desks, KL CAT will eventually be able to provide passengers with flight and train information, as well as customer service and ticketing counters, retail outlets and facilities for the disabled. Discussions are currently being held with the relevant authorities to obtain approval and develop procedures for operating these facilities.


  • CAPTION: One of the first sections of the alignment to be completed was the curved viaduct through the Putra Jaya wetlands at km 21·5
  • CAPTION: By May 14 grading work for the depot site had started at km 45·2 near Salak Tinggi