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. --