Five in Kuala Lumpur's MRT Swiss Challenge Nov 2011
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
Groups from China, Korea and Japan will join the fray of the Swiss Challenge process with local promoter Gamuda-MMC to build the underground section of Kuala Lumpur's new mass rapid transit line.

Fig 1. Kuala Lumpur's MRT will run under the CBD from before the Mahameru Highway to the Maluri Station

Estimated at some MYR12 billion Malaysian Ringet (about US$3.8 billion), the underground infrastructure comprises 9.5km of twin running tunnels and seven underground stations as the central section (Fig 1) of the capital's new MYR50 billion (US$16 billion) Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit line of 51km and 35 stations from Sugai Buloh in the northwest to Kajang in the southeast (Fig 2).

Fig 2. Full route of the city's first mass transit line

The international contenders for the underground works are groups led by Gadang-Hyundai of Korea, Taisei Corp of Japan, China's Sinohydro Group, and the China Railway Corp. As the original promoter of the new line, Gamuda-MMC Corp was appointed as the government's Project Delivery Partner in December 2010 and as such, was disqualified from construction of the line, except for the underground section. Competitors for the underground works were required to satisfy a stringent set of prequalification criteria.
As the most experienced tunnel construction group in Malaysia, following its success SMART storm water and road tunnel project in the early 2000s and the Berapit tunnel on the Ipoh-Padang Besar railway line upgrade in 2010, Gamuda-MMC is presented the opportunity to bid for the underground section via the Swiss Challenge method of procurement. As part of its promotion, Gamuda-MMC presented the preliminary design and contract principles for the project. Against this, competitive counter-proposals are invited, after which Gamuda-MMC will have the opportunity to exercise a Swiss Challenge right to either equal or better the preferred proposal, once details are presented.
Project scope and management
As well as the central underground section beneath the heart of the city, the new line comprises at-grade and elevated lengths either side, for a total length of 51km and 35 stations.
Central government approved the estimated MYR50 billion (US$16 billion) total cost in December 2010. It is the largest ever infrastructure development for Malaysia and the largest National Key Economic Area project in the New Economic Model of development of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The project was managed initially by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd, the central government's infrastructure operator. In September this year (2011), a new agency, MRT Corp, was established by the Ministry of Finance to develop the line.
It is reported that MRT has invited design-build proposals from the four competing groups for a closing date at the end of January 2012 and towards an award of the underground works contract by mid-2012. In the meantime eight contract packages for the surface and elevated works were tendered to local contractors in September 2011 and construction activity along the line has started.
Novel procurement
The Swiss Challenge form of procurement is unusual but not unknown. There are examples of the process being used for projects in India and most recently for the proposed 60km monorail network project in Bangalore. The process does however present anomalies.
While a successful challenge by Gamuda-MMC would secure the underground works for a well experienced contractor and keep the financial investment and job-creation opportunities within Malaysia, a third party bidder may present a financial proposal that Gamuda-MMC cannot match. A preferred alternative might not also comply with the original project design, which could prove problematic for Gamuda-MMC as the line's Project Delivery Partner.
Preliminary design of Gamuda-MMC's proposal anticipates eight, or perhaps 10, TBMs to excavate the 9.5km long twin tube running tunnels within a tight construction period that has the line operating (according to government announcements) by 2016. For the SMART tunnel, in the same area and through the same geological conditions, Gamuda-MMC used two 13m diameter Herrenknecht slurry Mixshields.
Gus Klados, who worked on the SMART tunnel for Gamuda-MMC, has returned to Kuala Lumpur and the JV to work on the MRT project as nominated Head of Underground Works should Gamuda-MMC exercise a successful Swiss Challenge. Don Hall, who was tunnel construction manager for Gamuda-MMC on the SMART project, would also join the MRT underground construction project. As well as the SMART project, Klados and Hall, as career tunnelling engineers, also worked together on the Channel Tunnel in the UK in the late 1980s-early 1990s and on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project in the late 1990s in Southern Africa among several other projects around the world.
For the new MRT owner organisation, Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer and Marcus Karakashian is recruited to lead its management and technical team. Hamid is former Managing Director of Malaysia's Sime Darby Plantation business and Karakashian moves from his metro management engagements in Singapore for the MRT's Downtown, North-East and East-West Metro Lines and its Kallang-Paya Lebar Express underground highway project. Karakashian, of the UK, was also involved on the owner's management team on the Jubilee Line Extension of London's Underground system in the late 1990s.
Other parties involved in the KVMRT project include the government's Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), as the supervising agency and RapidKL, a subsidiary of Prasarana, which will operate the MRT system on its completion.
As many as 130,000 jobs are expected to be generated for construction of the project. To prepare a workforce for the specialised tunnelling and underground construction works contract, Gamuda-MMC with MTA is setting up a training facility similar to the one developed for the current Crossrail project in London, UK. The facility is currently being established with different types of tunnelling equipment donated from industry suppliers to train workers for the different underground construction tasks that will be needed including TBM and segmental lining crews and operators of shotcreting machines and excavators. The facility is expected to be inaugurated before the end of the year.
Record rail tunnel breakthrough in Malaysia - TunnelTalk, Nov 2010
UK tunnel safety and training schemes in focus - TunnelTalk, Aug 2011
KVMTA underground works prequalification – Download a pdf copy of the criteria
SMART tunnel development in Malaysia – Contact TunnelTalk for pdf copy of a supplement produced in 2005

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