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Saturday June 26, 2010

MRT offers wider coverage

DESPITE being an unsolicited bid, the proposed mass rapid transit (MRT) by Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd does have some appealing features to fix the public transport woes of the Klang Valley.

Their proposed MRT scheme tackles the key shortcomings of public transport in the city and its outskirts – its areas of coverage are wide enough to capture many unserved segments of the Klang Valley. More importantly, it does try to make use of the existing light rail transit (LRT) lines, connecting with it as much as possible.

The Gamuda-MMC proposed MRT network consists of two radial lines and a circle line, which has similarities with the train networks in most major cities. It is commonly known as the “wheels and spokes” concept.

In total, the MRT network will cover up to 150km of lines, with about a third of that going underground.

The first radial line, dubbed the red line, will go from Damansara to Serdang and the second one (the green line) will be from Kepong to Cheras. Both lines will cross the centre of Kuala Lumpur city and will converge in the city centre, at Dataran Perdana near Jalan Tun Razak.

The convergence location is also near the soon-to-be-developed Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD).

Meanwhile, the circling MRT line will connect key secondary urban centres and provide connectivity between the radial corridors as well as the existing Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT lines (and with their proposed extensions), the monorail and KTM Bhd’s Komuter network.

Hence, the integration with existing systems is a key feature of the proposed MRT. The plans include creating walking access or interchange between the different systems.

For example, under the proposed MRT blueprint, there would be an interchange station in close proximity of platforms, ease of access to stations and walkways to nearby commercial development.

The plan is also to have “fare integration”, with an integrated ticket to facilitate speedy and easy transfer between the different modes of public transport.

According to those familiar with Gamuda’s proposal, the proposed MRT scheme would form the backbone of a transportation system to be complemented by feeder buses as the limbs or support system.

“A rail system should be the backbone simply because it is the most efficient transport mode in terms of throughput efficiency. For example, it will take 177 cars or three buses to carry 240 people to travel to work but all that can fit into one train-car,” says a transport planner familiar with Gamuda’s proposal.

He adds that this MRT plan will result in a three-fold increase in the city’s rail network and a five-fold increase in ridership as it will go through corridors with high travel demand.

There should be two million trips of people using public transport per day in the city by 2020 from the current 400,000 trips per day, he adds.

According to other sources, the Gamuda proposal, which will cost some RM36bil, is structured to be funded by the Government on the basis of economic benefits it will bring about. “Although not commercially viable, it will be economically feasible, which is in line with similar projects worldwide” says the person familiar Gamuda’s proposal. The MRT project could cost up to RM43bil, it was reported, with RM36bil for the construction (including tunnelling works) and design of the MRT, RM2bil for land acquisition, RM3bil for rolling stock and RM2bil for developing an underground commercial space.

The economic benefits stipulated in the proposal include mainly travel time savings for people working in the Klang Valley and significant savings from vehicle operating costs as people will not need to drive into the city to get to work.

Other components of the economic benefits are reduction of accidents and greenhouse emissions.

Aside from that, its proponents argue that a MRT project will have a multiplier effect on certain sectors of business such as engineering consultancy, quantity surveyors, architects, building materials and machinery and other equipment sales. It would also boost the property sector and be a boost to tourism.

However, it should be noted though that while the government is keen on having an MRT in the city, the Gamuda-MMC proposed one is only “one such proposal” which needs to be studied, says an official from the recently-formed Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), which is planning a public transport masterplan for the Klang Valley and the rest of the country. SPAD officials did however also say that they would not have problems incorporating proposals that are well studied and planned into their masterplan.

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