The federal government is prepared to spend big on the MRT project. The project proponents of which MMC-Gamuda had estimated will cost at least RM36 billion. Sceptics had put the price tag at at least RM46 billion upon its eventual completion.
The main question is, would the MRT project be able to solve the Klang Valley public transport woes?
Transit, a local advocacy group, does not think so although the project consultant, ERE Consultancy Group, opined that MRT is a better solution than others.
The transport advocacy group claimed today that it was impossible for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to achieve its ferrying targets based on its fleet size and passenger capacity.
In a statement on its website transitmy.org this morning, the Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (Transit) argued that with only 58 available MRT trains, each with a maximum passenger capacity of 1,200 people, the system would not be able to achieve its 30,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD) target.
The group added that even if all 58 carriages were to ply the 90-minute route from Sungai Buloh to Kajang (SBK), the first in the proposed three-line project, the system would still only achieve 24,000 PPHPD.
Even then, it said this was unlikely as at least 10 per cent of the fleet should be reserved as spare trains, meaning that only 52 or 53 trains would be available for use.
“If you look closely at the numbers, there is no way for the MRT to achieve 30,000 PPHPD or the 40,000 as targeted by the government,” the statement said.
To achieve 40,000 PPHPD, said Transit, the system would have to provide at least one train for every 109 seconds or 33 trains for every hour, which would allow the MRT to achieve 39,600 PPHPD. (more on Malaysian Insider website)
It is fair to insist on a thorough study before such a big financial commitment is being made on the proposed MRT project. The current LRT system has a few weaknesses which have yet to be resolved:
1) A lack of feeder bus system to ferry passengers out from the housing estates to the LRT stations. RapidKL service has deteriorated over the years. Hence, traveling by LRT is not only time consuming but inconvenient. For example, a resident in SS2 housing estate would have to take a taxi to the LRT stations in Taman Bahagia or Kelana Jaya. The taxi ride would cost an additional least RM6-RM8.
2) The current LRT lines are not connected and poorly located. The government must address the current weakness and address the connectivity issue. There is a need of a better and standardized payment system too. Most of the self-service machines are not in proper working order.
3) The trains do not have enough coaches to allow for bigger passengers capacity. Transit has made a legitimate observation of the inability of the MRT frequency to meet the targeted load capacity.
I would like to echo the call from various parties to urge the government to consider other cheaper options too such as the Bus Transit System.
BTS has been a key pillar of a good, affordable and efficient public transport system in major international cities. It makes more sense for the government to consider BTS as a viable option due to the development structure and demographic to Klang Valley.
It has been long overdue for the government to come out with a workable and cost efficient public transport system to lower the burden of public especially those at the lower income bracket.
A good public transport system is key to ensure a faster and efficient socio-economic development. It could ease the congestion in the Klang Valley and the government could consider shifting the oil subsidy for private cars to public transport system to ensure that such benefit drips down to the bottom rung of society (especially those who do not own a private vehicle).
Over the last 3 decades, the government has irresponsibly chosen to support the local car producers and private car ownership and ignore the need to provide an efficient public transport system. As a result, the government is now facing a burden of RM14 billion annually (and growing) in oil subsidy.
The government had mischievously tried to use the private car ownership data as a measurement for wealth and well-being. This is not only misleading but also inappropriate and irresponsible. More affluent societies such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan registered more than 70% public transport users.
The government must get the public transport system policy right and not continue to waste scarce public funds on another half-baked and poorly planned solution.
The space for the government to continue making such a costly mistake is narrowing and it is best for the current regime to take note of this fact.