BANGKOK – Malaysia and China resumed on Thursday the construction of a rail line included in the China-led Belt and Road Initiative after the two countries agreed to cut the cost of the project by almost a third.
The project was canceled in May 2018 by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, weeks after his unexpected electoral win, who described the conditions imposed by China as “unfair.”
The project’s resumption follows an agreement reached in April by the two governments to reduce its cost from 65.5 billion ringgit ($15.91 billion) to 44 billion ringgit, according to a statement by the Malaysian state-owned railway company involved in the project.
The 640-kilometer (398 miles) line, linking Kota Bharu, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, with Port Klang in the west, the most-developed and dynamic region of the country, is expected to be operational at the end of 2026.
The Belt and Road initiative plans to finance infrastructure in over 80 countries to connect China with its Asian neighbors and other continents.
The plan has given rise to concerns in several countries, including the United States and some member states of the European Union, who fear that the only ones to benefit from it will be Chinese companies.
The Mahathir government has also halted another railway project, that of a high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, until 2020, pending negotiations between the two countries to cut its cost.