PETALING JAYA: It has only been a week since the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line became fully operational but the project’s owner has already had to fork out thousands of ringgit to repair the damage caused by vandals.
Litterbugs are also leaving behind rubbish, including cigarette butts and even a broken spotlight, in the station compounds, marring the image of the RM21bil public transport project.
Scratches have been found on specially-designed benches in at least four underground stations at Muzium Negara, Pasar Seni, Merdeka and Bukit Bintang, said Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Relations director Datuk Najmuddin Abdullah.
MRT Corp is the developer and owner of the project, while Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd is the operator of the line.
Najmuddin said closer examination showed that the gouges on the benches were not accidentally caused by bags or other items but were most likely acts of vandalism.
He reckoned that these benches, built from winning entries in a design competition for students, stand out and therefore become more inviting targets for vandals than the regular benches at above-ground stations, none of which have been vandalised so far.
“When it comes to teething problems for the MRT, one major issue is vandalism, as it’s quite rampant,” he said.
“We had to remove one of the benches to get it repaired, and have spent RM10,000 to repair the damage caused so far.”
Apart from the benches, Najmuddin said the Muzium Negara station’s toilet for the handicapped was also damaged by vandals who broke the toilet bowl.
At the Bukit Bintang station, all kinds of rubbish, including a broomstick and a broken spotlight, were thrown on the roof covering the station’s escalator exit to street level.
A small flower garden at the station entrance was littered with cigarette butts.
“We need to change our mentality. We provide a first-class product for the public so we need to realise the importance of taking care of the facilities so that it can last not just for our use but for coming generations,” said Najmuddin.
On complaints by commuters that the walking distance between the Muzium Negara MRT station and KL Sentral was too far, he explained that the 240m covered walkway connecting the Muzium Negara MRT station to KL Sentral was the shortest possible distance that could be found.
“There is no room in KL Sentral to house an MRT station, and the Muzium Negara station being underground meant that we had to choose a site that is not blocked by the foundations of the buildings near KL Sentral,” he said.
On complaints that the escalators moved too fast, Najmuddin explained that they were programmed to facilitate a speedy flow of passengers through the stations.
“Trains arrive from both directions at three-minute intervals, so each station must be able to move about 2,000 people in and out within that period,” he said.
To help commuters, including the elderly, the escalators had a “landing zone” where they travelled horizontally for a short distance before ascending, which helps commuters keep their balance.
Ridership figures for the MRT SBK show a healthy take-up rate for the line since its opening on July 17.
The ridership recorded a new high yesterday of 142,313, which is above what MRT Corp had expected.
“Normally, daily ridership is highest on weekdays when people are working but in this case it was on a Saturday.
“We’d like to thank commuters for their support and sincerely hope they will continue to use Rapid Rail’s public transport network,” said Rapid Rail CEO Datuk Zohari Sulaiman.
Phase 1 of the line, from Sungai Buloh to the Semantan station in Kuala Lumpur, was opened in December last year, while the second phase connecting Semantan to Kajang opened last Monday.