KUALA LUMPUR: The monopoly on interstate rail services may be broken up soon if the Government proceeds with opening the rail sector to other players besides Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTM).
However, KTMB's top brass said it is not afraid should that happen - and even welcomed the potential competition.
Chairman Datuk Nawawi Ahmad said more people might ride trains if the peninsular's double-track from Johor Baru to Padang Besar is opened up to more players.
"When (only) Malaysia Airlines was around, not many people took airplanes. But when AirAsia came, many people (started to fly), and both companies were able to move forward.
"So the model that they use can also be used for trains," he said here Tuesday as he expressed his confidence that KTM would be able to ride out any challenges posed by having more competition.
Nawawi was replying to Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi who said the Government was planning to have multiple rail operators running on the country's interstate railways.
Abdul Aziz said the country's rail capabilities might increase tenfold once the double-track is up.
Save for a 200km stretch between Gemas in Negri Sembilan and Johor Baru, KTM's diesel passenger and cargo trains are already using the completed double-track from Gemas to Padang Besar, although the highly-favoured electricity-powered passenger coaches of KTM Komuter and ETS are still confined to the sector between Ipoh and Seremban.
KTM is currently testing some ETS coaches between Ipoh and Padang Besar in anticipation of offering passenger services from September.
There is still no confirmation on when the contract for the double-track from Gemas to Johor Baru will be awarded.
Abdul Aziz said double-tracked routes currently only see a 30% usage rate, and hoped that this would be upped in the future.
On awarding more players for the interstate route, Abdul Aziz added that the Government had not yet made the decision on having multiple operators.
"We hope the Government can make a decision by next year ... That is the plan," he said.