In the eye of the storm

  • Business
  • Saturday, 05 Mar 2011

Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal (pic) must feel like he is in the eye of the storm. As chief executive of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), he is leading a team having to oversee and regulate one of the country's most ambitious and arguably controversial public infrastructure projects. Mohd Nur has remained a calm figure though, in the face of the constant barrage of questions from all stakeholders of the mass rapid transit (MRT). His key message is that the Government is not going to bulldoze the MRT project through but will pay heed to public feedback. Below, excerpts of a recent interview:

SBW: There are concerns about why Prasarana, which has a chequered past, to put it mildly, has been made the project owner of the MRT. Can you explain what is the basis of giving this role to Prasarana?

Mohd Nur: Prasarana, which is 100% owned by the Ministry of Finance Inc, was set up in 1998 to facilitate, co-ordinate, undertake and expedite infrastructure projects approved by the Government. As the MRT is a government-funded infrastructure project, Prasarana is the relevant entity to be the owner of the asset and of the network.

Is the MRT alignment demand-based or is it to generate new areas of growth? Is there room for this alignment to be tweaked before work begins?

Both are considerations. The travel demand pattern in the KL Valley were studied and priority corridors identified.

The Sungai Buloh Kajang Line runs through a densely developed area and provides direct links to the city centre from the north-western and the south-eastern sector. This corridor with a total population of 1.2 million people is currently inadequately served by rail based networks.

The overarching principle of the proposed rail network alignment is benchmarked against the following:

Stage 1: Regional level, fixed points where the line must go

Stage 2: Engineering considerations Curvatures Gradients Corridor widths Land acquisition Social and environmental impact Impacts on journey times Stage 3: Micro level, local details

Reviewing of alignment after feedback How will SPAD fix the anomalies in land public transport today?

SPAD is a statutory body which officially came into being on June 3, 2010 with the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat Act 2010. The mission is to ensure a safe, reliable, responsive, accessible, planned, integrated, affordable and sustainable land public transport system to enhance economic growth and quality of life.

Land public transportation in Malaysia is suffering from low usage. Use of public transport in the Klang Valley was at 12% in 2009 and at 17% in 2010, compared with Singapore (63%), Hong Kong (74%) and London (90%). This is caused by a range of problems from the lack of coverage and capacity to the lack of reliability, integration and comfort.

Prior to the setting up of SPAD, there were 15 agencies involved in the public transport sector such as the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister's Department, Commercial Vehicles Licencing Board, land division of the Ministry of Transport, department of railways, Ministry of Transport, Road Transport Department (JPJ) and others. This led to some overlapping and inconsistencies in policies.

SPAD has absorbed the functions of the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, department of railways and Tourism Ministry's tourism vehicle licensing function. Currently, SPAD's jurisdiction covers Peninsula Malaysia. It will be extended to Sabah and Sarawak in the near future.

SPAD's core functions are to draw up policies for land public transport, planning, regulation and enforcement of laws. SPAD will be completing 20-year masterplans for the national and regional level in September 2011.

We reckon that some of the factors for the MRT's success is a good feeder bus system, integration of all three lines and buses with a single ticketing system and discouraging the use of cars in the city. How do you plan to do that?

In view that public transport will be made the preferred mode of mobility for the public in the Klang Valley, Government is working on a support system as well as improving the existing feeder bus service system to move people from their home/office to the stations and vice versa.

Residents within a 3km radius of the station would have the option of traveling by feeder bus to the stations or drive 3km to 6km to the closest park and ride stations.

There is going to be interconnectivity between the MRT, LRT and KTM Komuter. There are two MRT-LRT interchanges one at Pasar Seni (Kelana Jaya line) and Taman Maluri (Ampang line) and two MRT-KTM Komuter interchanges at Sungai Buloh and Kajang.

There will also be common ticketing being planned making traveling for the rakyat in the Klang Valley seamless.

With reference to buses in particular, how much power does SPAD have to ensure an efficient bus system in the country? Can you identify what the problems are in this area and who is ultimately responsible, for e.g. in ensuring that there is sufficient feeder buses plying the routes?

In the short term, some of these initiatives are:

The improvement of bus journey times by implementing Bus Expressway Transit (BET) services, and commissioning studies on the possibility of implementing dedicated bus rights of way such as bus lanes and Bus Rapid Transit systems

Building and improving over 1,000 bus stops in the Klang Valley Reorganising the bus network in the Klang Valley Implementing integrated smart ticketing which was launched on Feb 25 by RapidKL Introducing performance standard monitoring for all public transport services. Other initiatives to improve public transport are being carried out by other government agencies such as Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd and KTM Bhd.

Through these initiatives, the share of public transport has increased to 17% in 2010 based on an independent survey conducted by Urusbudi Transplan Sdn Bhd and is well on track on achieving the 25% target by 2012.

What are the plans for the tendering of the MRT works.

The Government, through Prasarana, has appointed MMC-Gamuda as the Project Delivery Partner (PDP) of the MRT project. Under the arrangement, the PDP works in partnership with the Government and is responsible for delivering the MRT project within agreed target cost and target completion date. The PDP will be responsible for absorbing any cost overruns and delays in the project.

The PDP will also be responsible for packaging the works, calling for tenders on behalf of the Government, evaluating bids and selecting work packages contracts. The final decision on which party a contract is awarded to rests with the Government.

The PDP will not be allowed to participate in the tender for any of the work packages except for tunneling works. The PDP is allowed to bid for this work package because of it being the only local company to have vast experience in tunneling. Allowing it to participate in the tunneling package not only allows the project to tap on this expertise, but also prevent any outflow of funds from the country if only foreign companies can get this job.

What are the key features of the rail transport masterplan and how it will integrate with the land public transport masterplan? When will these two be revealed to the public?

Under its planning function, SPAD will be completing 20-year masterplans for the national and regional level which will ensure the holistic development of public transport throughout the country in September 2011. The masterplans will identify the public transport needs at the regional level. SPAD will come up with short, medium and long term initiatives to fulfill the public transport needs identified in the masterplans.

For example, the Klang Valley Public Transport Master Plan will consist of the following key subsidiary plans :-

1. Urban Rail Development Plan 2. Bus Transformation Plan 3. Taxi Transformation Plan 4. Transport Infrastructure Plan

How has public response been since the display of the line at local authorities on Feb 14?

Public response has been very good. SPAD is receiving over 1,000 unique visitors per day at the MRT website and over 50 calls through the telephone helpline. The feedback at the Public Display locations has also been very good.

We encourage and welcome constructive feedback during this period. All feedback will be thoroughly evaluated and presented to the Government before the final decision on the proposed alignment and location of the stations are adopted for implementation to make travelling on the Klang Valley rail network (including KTM Komuter and LRT) seamless and convenient for the rakyat.

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