Rail-ly early closure is for cash handling


This is a policy oversight, say industry folk

PETALING JAYA: The need to handle and transport cash is the reason why LRT, MRT and monorail stations in the Klang Valley need to close significantly earlier before the last train departs, said Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, the Prasarana Malaysia Bhd subsidiary operating those services.

It is part of the rail operators work protocol for staff to close slightly earlier to balance the day’s accounts and prepare the cash box for transfer for safekeeping.

“Around 40% of our customers still prefer to use cash when purchasing tickets, and that means they conduct the transaction with our staff at the counter,” said Rapid Rail CEO Amir Hamdan, in responding to The Star’s story on May 11, which highlighted the practice of train stations operated by Rapid Rail consistently closing earlier before the last train departs.

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For example, the Phileo Damansara MRT station on the Kajang line will deny entry at 11.45pm, even though the last train towards Kwasa Damansara departs at 12.21am, leaving a 36-minute gap.

Depending on the location, other Rapid Rail’s stations will deny entry up to an hour or more before the last train.

Amir said Rapid Rail’s current cash-handling protocol involves the station staff – typically a sole person at night – to physically bring the cash box on board a special train that is not open to passengers.

As this special train runs before the last passenger service train for the day, the station will be unmanned when the staff leaves with the cash box after reconciling the day’s accounts.

This daily cash handling by station staff at the end of day excludes cash in the self-service machines.

“In order for stations to close only after the last train leaves, we may have to wait until all the users go cashless,” said Amir, who added that a sizeable number of commuters are not using prepaid cards like Touch n’ Go and other concession cards offered by Prasarana.

Just this month, Rapid Rail enabled the use of credit and debit cards at the service counters (but not at the self-service ticketing machines), which again needs human interface at the stations.

Industry observers remain unmoved by Rapid Rail’s explanation, with some pointing out that the metro operated by Hong Kong MTR, for example, still allows entry into the station up to five minutes before the last train.

“The premature closure of train stations in the Klang Valley relative to the last train is a glaring policy oversight that undermines the utility and accessibility of what is purported to be a modern urban rail system. It fails to serve their commuters,” said Wan Agyl Wan Hassan, the principal of Agyl & Partners, a consultancy based in Kuala Lumpur.

Wan Agyl, who used to be head of the now-disbanded Land Public Transport Commission’s (SPAD) policy and planning division, said staffing capacity and capabilities and cash handling procedures should be improved in a manner that befits Prasarana’s stature.

“The core problem goes beyond cash handling, but also involves operational inefficiencies, security challenges and the reliability of ticketing machines.

“A comprehensive approach addressing these interconnected issues is essential for improving overall service quality and operational efficiency,” said Wan Agyl.

In a statement to The Star, the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) said Rapid Rail should communicate in a clearer manner to its customers on access to the last few trains for the day.

“This is so that passengers will not be confused, especially among those who finish work late at night,” it said.

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