MALAYSIA’S public transport system is really on the move.
It is growing rapidly and a lot of restructuring is going on as well.
A clear indication is the fact that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was present at several rail-related events in recent months.
On July 19, he witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail project.
Targeted to be completed by 2026, the train service will slash travel time between the two countries to as short as 90 minutes.
Less than two weeks later, Najib was at the Putra Heights township in Subang Jaya to officially launch the extension of the Kelana Jaya and Ampang light rail transit (LRT) lines.
Next, he was at the Aug 24 launch of the LRT3 project, which will connect Selangor’s Bandar Utama and Klang. Construction is expected to start early next year.
He made his fifth visit to the Sungai Buloh-Kajang mass rail transit (MRT) project on Sept 1.
This time, he went to the Semantan station in Damansara Heights and took his first MRT ride to the Phileo Damansara station in Petaling Jaya.
The country’s second MRT line will link Sungai Buloh, Serdang and Putrajaya.
Najib attended its ground breaking ceremony on Thursday.
These many examples tell us that the expansion and improvement of public transport figure prominently in the Government’s plans.
Improving urban public transport is one of the Government Transformation Programme’s (GTP) priorities.
The MRT and the Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail service are key projects under the Economic Transformation Programme.
Here is the rationale given on the GTP website: “The need for an efficient and connected public transport system becomes ever more urgent as Malaysia continues down the path of becoming a high-income nation.”
A country’s economic, social and environmental goals are tougher to achieve if its public transport does not keep up with the pace of development.
The GTP initiatives are not focused only on rail systems. The bus and taxi services are also being revamped.
And even if there were no such plans for the taxi industry, the arrival of ride-sharing services such as Uber and GrabCar has altered the landscape drastically, thus compelling the authorities to recently announce changes in the rules.
It is a reminder that public transport initiatives have to go beyond physical infrastructure.
The fastest and newest vehicles and the most extensive networks do not amount to much if the services are not reliable, comfortable, convenient and affordable.
That hinges on effective strategies, efficient operations and strong management.
Also necessary is a firm regulatory hand.
Public transport systems are complex and things can go wrong, as they did last week when the Kelana Jaya LRT lines suffered service disruptions that affected thousands of people.
What is important in such a situation is that there is swift action to ease the difficulties faced by passengers, and that there is transparency and accountability in identifying what caused the problem and in taking steps to avoid a repeat.
Our public transport sector will truly be transformed when all the above are met.
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