CONTRACTS for work on Malaysia's first mass rapid transit (MRT) line, linking Kajang and Sungai Buloh, will be awarded in May this year, an official said.
This is earlier than some analysts expected and will likely be welcomed by the market, which has been looking for projects like this, which come under the government's Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), to show progress.
The project's groundbreaking is supposed to kick off this July.
The Land Public Transport Commission chief executive officer Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal said tenders for the preliminary and main works will likely be called by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd at the end of April, with the awards to be announced "around mid-May".
The Prasarana-appointed project manager, a joint venture between Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd, will be able to give recommendations on which firms should get contracts, but it will be the government who has the final say, Nur Ismal said.
It is "not clear" yet if tenders for rollingstock, which include trains, will also be called before the project's groundbreaking, he added.
The Kajang-Sungai Buloh line, expected to be operational by 2016, is the first of possibly at least three MRT lines to come that would run a length of between 55 and 60km.
The three lines may cost RM36.6 billion in total, going by Gamuda-MMC's initial estimates in 2009, but this has yet to be determined.
Nur Ismal said the target cost for the first line is currently being worked out.
A special purpose vehicle set up by the Ministry of Finance Inc will be tasked to raise funds for this project, and possibly other infrastructure projects in future, he said.
There will be incentives for MMC-Gamuda if they can deliver the project below the target cost. Should they incur cost over-runs, however, they will have to pay up the difference, he said.
"We are highly focused on delivering the first line," he said.
Nur Ismal was speaking to reporters in Putrajaya after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced 19 more projects, including the MRT, under the ETP.
More news on the second and third lines may be unveiled in late March or early April this year, he added.
"The timeline for the (first) MRT tender is slightly ahead of our expectations ... it should be viewed positively by the market," Chris Eng, head of reach at OSK Investment Bank Bhd, told Business Times.
Najib said the MRT will employ about 130,000 people at its peak construction phase and have a significant multiplier impact on associated industries.
Investment in it will see an incremental gross national income contribution of RM21.3 billion come 2020.