RAIL connectivity in the Klang Valley is being enhanced with the official launch of the first phase of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). It opens to the public today. The line, consisting of 12 stations from Sungai Buloh to Semantan in Damansara will, when completed, have Kajang as its final destination, hence the acronym SBK, and will be completed in July next year. The SBK line is expected to handle a traffic volume of 400,000 per day. Together with the light rapid transit and the monorail, and a fully integrated feeder bus and taxi system, Kuala Lumpur will be one of many liveable cities in the world on a par with, if not better than, London, Singapore and Hong Kong. It will, too, change the people’s lifestyle as public transport becomes the norm.
Necessarily, a life more predictable in terms of schedules will trigger a better business culture of timeliness and efficiency, translating into better productivity; a precondition of further economic growth and expansion, thus, nurturing a modern psyche. Time management, in the sense that more living and working is packed into every minute, cannot but produce a beneficial outcome. This is what the prime minister meant when he refers to the rail links as more than a transportation infrastructure. Take, for example, the spatial perception that shrinks the length and breadth of the Klang Valley into Greater Kuala Lumpur, the traversing of which will be child’s play. No more traffic jams.
Furthermore, the commute is made cheaper when road tolls, petrol costs and parking fees are excluded. That economies of scale will allow for ticket fares to be much lower than all those cost variables put together is common sense. In fact, the public is promised that there will be enough feeder buses that are very affordable and frequent to ensure a smooth journey from home to work and back. Not driving will mean stress is kept to a minimum with positive consequences on the commuter’s health. Another health advantage is the cleaner air resulting from less fossil fuel burning by motor vehicles.
Most importantly is the message implicit in the delivery of the MRT as per scheduled. Firstly, despite the detractors loudly claiming the country is impoverished, this multi-billion-ringgit project was completed on time. If there is no money, wouldn’t the project be disrupted? Secondly, it belies a progressive policy designed with the people in mind, intended to move them with the nation’s progress. As the prime minister insists, none “should be ahead or left behind”. Thirdly, as with all large infrastructure project, the knock-on effect on the economy has been and will continue to be tremendous like a transfer of technology. It cannot be denied that related industries have benefited. Of course, it has kept employment buoyant. Putrajaya’s public transportation policy then is more than merely carrying passengers from point A to B. Improved rail links planned to cover the whole peninsula will extend the reach of growth and development. As for the Klang Valley, the engine of the country’s continued prosperity, efficiency equals more investments.