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The National Transport Policy is set to chart a new direction for the rail industry, beside creatingmultiplier effects in local economies. NSTP/EIZAIRI SHAMSUDIN

KUALA LUMPUR: THE country’s transport sector is set to experience a sea change, with a slew of initiatives set to be rolled out in 2020 aimed at improving public and private transport as well as boosting the economy.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2019

This year saw, among others, the revival of previously stalled rail projects, the unveiling of the national transport policy as well as the government’s declaration of its readiness to embrace the gig economy in the transportation sector.

The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a 640km project linking Port Klang to Kota Baru, Kelantan was among the rail projects which received the go-ahead after being suspended.

The cost has since been trimmed down to RM44 billion, 34 per cent lower than the previous RM65.5 billion price tag.

Apart from contributing 2.7 per cent to the country’s economic growth, it is also expected to comprise a 70 per cent local workforce, thus opening up job opportunities to 23,000 Malay-sians.

Once completed in December 2026, the ECRL will cut travelling time between Kota Baru and Putrajaya to four hours.

Other rail projects such as the Light Rail Transit 3, Mass Rapid Transit 2 and Klang Valley Double Track phase 2 have also resumed after cost-cutting measures.

The National Transport Policy 2019-2030, launched this year, is set to chart a new direction in developing an efficient, integrated and secure transport system that accelerates economic growth and supports the wellbeing of the people in line with advanced nation status.

Also formalised this year were new regulations governing the e-hailing industry, which came into force on Oct 12.

Under the new regulations, vehicles in e-hailing services will need a Passenger Service Vehicle (PSV) licence for the driver, passenger insurance, e-hailing sticker and e-hailing vehicle permit from the Land Public Transport Agency.

Up to early this month, 91,978 e-hailing drivers have obtained their PSV licences.

WHAT’S IN STORE IN 2020 — TOLL AND FUEL

Toll rates and the price of fuel, areas of concern for many Malaysians, are expected to see an improvement.

The government’s 2020 Budget aims for an 18 per cent reduction in toll rates for highways under PLUS, which is expected to save highway users up to RM1.13 billion next year.

This will come via plans by Khazanah Nasional to take over or divest all shares in PLUS Malaysia Bhd.

Plans are also in place to replace tolls at four highways — KESAS, LDP, Sprint, and Smart — with a congestion charge, which is expected to be 70 per cent cheaper than current toll rates during peak and normal hours, and zero tolls during off-peak hours.

The toll rate for the Second Penang Bridge, meanwhile, will be reduced to RM7 from RM8.50 beginning Jan 1.

The Petrol Subsidy Programme (PSP) for RON 95 petrol will be rolled out in Peninsular Malaysia by next month.

This will see the price of RON95 floated according to market prices. The PSP will feature two categories — the first is for Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) recipients: RM30 a month for car owners and RM12 per month for motorcycle owners.

The first payment will be made in April. Motorists who are not BSH recipients will receive the Kad95, which will enable them to buy RON95 fuel at a discounted rate of 30 sen per litre for cars, or 40 litres a month for motorcycles.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

With public transportation identified as a key factor to help reduce the heavy traffic flow on roads, several initiatives will be rolled out this year for the purpose.

The government has allocated RM450 million for the purchase of electric buses of various sizes, which will be deployed in major townships.

An allocation of RM146 million will also be used to subsidise bus operators for last-mile transportation in rural and urban areas.

In Kuala Lumpur, RapidKL, from September to November this year, carried out a trial run of a fleet of “minibuses” along Route T300 (from the Bukit Indah hub to Ampang Point via Jalan Rasmi) to gauge the suitability of using a smaller vehicle, especially to access smaller roads linked to public housing projects.

In Johor Baru, the Rapid Transit System project linking Johor Baru and Singapore to further reduce congestion in the Causeway, will be revisited in April.

This, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke, was to enable Malaysia and Singapore to come to an agreement on the scope and structure of the project.

In Penang, the Bayan Lepas LRT project was given the green light, with the tender process for the LRT expected to be called in the second half of next year.

E-HAILING

This year saw the country’s fledgling e-hailing industry undergo a massive change by way of the PSV requirements for its drivers.

However, 2020 will likely see an even bigger change, in the form of motorcycle-hailing services, touted as being one of the solutions to the first and last-mile connectivity problems.

Indonesia’s Gojek and local start-up Dego Ride are expected to hit Malaysian roads from January, offering consumers a whole new dimension to beating the traffic woes.

The Transport Ministry said the companies would start operating in the Klang Valley based on a proof-of-concept basis to measure demand for the service over six months.

The six-month period will allow the government and participating firms to compile data and evaluate the demand for the service, while the government works on drafting legislation to govern bike-hailing.

The move courted controversy earlier this year.

Transport experts have raised concerns about riding pillion on the capital’s roads while Muslim religious hardliners have protested the possibility of men and women riding on the same motorcycle together.

The ministry said bike-hailing would be subject to similar regulations as laid out for e-hailing.

CHILDREN CAR SEATS

In October, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said child car safety seats would be made mandatory from next month.

The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research has released a guidebook on identifying and installing child restraint system (CRS) — the technical term for child seats.

However, the Transport Ministry has yet to clarify the possible penalties for flouting the regulation, only reiterating that they would focus on educating consumers for now.

The transport minister has also called for CRS to be exempt from the sales and service tax to make them cheaper.

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