(File pix) In overcoming current access problems caused by heavily congested roads and making for easy reach of every destination in the Klang Valley — Malaysia’s commercial heartland — an integrated public transportation system will create a considerable multiplier effect on the economy; not just in the Klang Valley, but the whole country. Hafiz Sohaimi

AN expansive light rail transit (LRT) and mass rapid transit (MRT) system to complement the inner-city Monorail is necessary if Greater Klang Valley is to be served by an efficient public transport network. Necessary too are the feeder buses and taxis that reach into residential areas and commercial districts to facilitate the last mile of connectivity. For, in overcoming current access problems caused by heavily congested roads and making for easy reach of every destination in the Klang Valley — Malaysia’s commercial heartland — an integrated public transportation system will create a considerable multiplier effect on the economy; not just in the Klang Valley, but the whole country. It makes travel to and from

work predictable, an enabler to efficiency in the workplace, hence,

increase in productivity. This is the inertia that will kick off an

economic momentum that ultimately translates into growth.

The recent launch of the Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya

Line 2 and the proposed third line for the Klang Valley MRT with

the transformation of the bus and taxi services and a further

growth to Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd are all manifestations of

this much needed expansion. This makes the problems on the LRT

a pertinent cause for concern.

Statements that procurement

of cables outliving their use

faster than promised by the

producer suggest that some

problems are traceable to the

project’s genesis. How many

other similar problems are

there that can be traced to

management slip-ups and will

ultimately spill over into disruption

of operations? Already,

the upgrading needs of power substations for the Kelana Jaya Line

threaten further power disruptions that leave passengers trapped.

It beggars the mind when Prasarana says because cables used are

maintenance free, no maintenance was done. But surely regular

inspections are part of standard operating procedures. That said,

however, when the service is smooth, it testifies to the truth of the

claims made for it: a boon to mass transportation.

Furthermore, the Land Public Transport Commission will

appoint an independent auditor for the LRT to assess the

dependability, availability, maintenance, safety and capability of

the Kelana Jaya Line. While it does little to foster confidence in

the current operations, it will make for a more dependable service

by identifying the woes that afflict this line in particular. A word

of caution is necessary. Success of the network to enhance the

economy will depend on affordability. Threats of fare increase on

a regular basis do little to endear the system to those who need it

most. On economics alone to be the criteria, fares of a system

costing billions are unfair on consumers whose contribution to

economic growth and development is indisputable. After all, there can be no burdening of consumers who vote with their feet.

A just and fair fare structure must be formulated. A strong sense of social responsibility for what is essentially a public utility is unavoidable. The government cannot absolve itself of financial responsibility for the upkeep of the rail network especially. It is an economic infrastructure necessity and the fares must, therefore, reflect this fact. --