IN 1995, the commuter train service was introduced in the Klang Valley and, in its inaugural year, it recorded a passenger load of 2.81 million.
Since then, the commuter train service has been well received by the public. Its passenger load recorded a remarkable increase of 293.8% or 11.09 million passengers a year later (1996). In the following years, the figure recorded a consistent year-to-year growth.
The commuter service was once seen as a benchmark of the nation’s public transportation nexus in line with the nation’s aspiration to emerge as a developed nation by 2020.
The commuter train is seen as a viable alternative form of public transport, along with taxis, buses, LRT and the monorail, to get from place to place in the Klang Valley.
Now, after 12 years, statistics provided by KTM Berhad, the railway corporation that operates the commuter train service, indicate that 34.97 million passengers used the service last year. This is a commendable figure because the people in the Klang Valley are spoilt for choice with the many public transportation modes available.
The commuter train service, in fact, extends beyond Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to Seremban, Port Klang and Rawang.
Nevertheless, over the years, the commuter service has been marred by trains breaking down more than often and failing to keep to schedule, and this, to some extent, has eroded public confidence in this service.
“I’m disappointed the commuter service is no longer what it used to be. Commuters like me are now in a dilemma, yet we still have to use the commuter service as we have no choice,” passenger Mehtar Abdul Hamid said when interviewed at the Seremban commuter station recently.
It was 6.40am, but hundreds of people, including Mehtar, 49, had boarded the commuter train at Seremban, for a trip to Kuala Lumpur. The train left the station five minutes later.
“I have been depending on the commuter service for the last four years but the situation remains the same – the trains still fail to keep to the schedule. The same goes for the commuter express service.” Mehtar said.
“At times the train is there, at times it's not there. This causes anxiety.”
Mehtar looked worried while waiting for the commuter train. He is one of the more than 4,000 Seremban residents who depend on the commuter train to commute daily between Seremban and Kuala Lumpur.
He said he opted for the commuter to avoid the congested roads and cut travelling cost.
“The rise in the standard of living and the cost factor also plays a role. If I take my car, I have to spend RM40 daily on fuel, toll and parking charges, but by using the commuter service, I only need to fork out RM6,” he said, pointing at the figure stated on the commuter ticket for a one-way trip from Seremban to KL Sentral.
A survey conducted by Bernama over the past year revealed that KTM has made improvements on the infrastructure like extending the canopy at almost all the 45 commuter stations, apart from the provision of facilities for the disabled and the installation of CCTV at several main commuter stations.
However, the commuters feel that there is still room for improvement, especially in the keeping of the schedule. Delays during peak periods create packed coaches. In an e-mail to Bernama, Alvin Fan from Kuala Lumpur mentioned that there was not much change though the government had announced several steps to enhance the quality of the commuter train service.
“I am disappointed that till today KTM is left out of the equation and we are talking about getting more people to change their mind and use public transport instead. I hope to see serious government intervention to improve this area,” he said.
“It is not the beautiful buildings and transport structure we built that we will be remembered by, but the service offered that counts. The comfort for passengers is what matters,” Fan said in his e-mail.
Malaysian Institute of Transportation (MITRANs) fellow Shahrin Nasir said any public transportation system depended on two factors – reliability and safety.
“The two factors will return public confidence in public transportation,” he said.
Since the hike of 30 sen per litre in the price of petrol in February last year, the public has been encouraged to use public transport.
Now, more than 450,000 people use the commuter, LRT and monorail daily in the Klang Valley.
Industry analysts believe that several factors, including the rise in prices of necessities since the salary revision for public servants in July, have influenced more and more people to opt for public transport.
Welcoming the RM12 bil allocation to enhance the quality of public transportation in Kuala Lumpur and Penang announced in the 2008 Budget, many people feel that the government should help KTM improve the commuter service, which is part of the transportation nexus in the Klang Valley. – Bernama