URBAN public transport has been a priority of the National Transformation Programme (NTP) since we launched our first roadmap in 2010. Prior to this, the last major upgrade to our public transport infrastructure was more than 10 years ago following the introduction of the light rail transit (LRT) and monorail systems in the mid-1990s.
Over this period, passengers on our main rail lines suffered from overcrowding during peak hours, as did those commuting on buses plying popular routes in and around the city.
Unreliable service with frequent delays and cancellations, poor connectivity between modes of transport and poor accessibility to services were also putting people off public transport.
As a result, the public transport modal share in the Klang Valley (including the KL central business district) was only at 10% in 2009.
Continued population and economic growth in Malaysia and its major cities also gave rise to private vehicle use, pushing road networks to capacity. Did you know that Malaysia has one of the highest rates of private car and multiple car ownership in the world?
With Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley’s population projected to reach 10 million in 2020 from six million in 2009, traffic gridlock in and around the country’s capital would reach levels seen in our neighbouring cities.
It became clear to us that this situation could not be left unresolved. Commuters’ quality of life was eroding, pollution resulting from the increase in motor vehicles was mounting and the general resulting inefficiencies would harm our productivity. Greater KL/Klang Valley’s liveability and attractiveness for investors would also deteriorate.
The Urban Public Transport National Key Result Area introduced in tandem with the Greater KL/Klang Valley National Key Economic Area under the NTP set the ball rolling for our transformation of the urban public transportation system.
The initiatives set out to put in place the policy and infrastructure needed to enhance our urban public transport system within a specific timeframe.
These include the introduction of the Land Public Transport Act 2010 (Act 715), which for the first time provided the relevant authorities with a focused mandate to comprehensively manage all matters related to land public transport. This was followed by the development of the National Land Public Transport Master Plan in 2013, spearheaded by the Land Public Transport Commission (Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat – SPAD), outlining the safety, reliability, efficiency, responsiveness, accessibility, integration, affordability and sustainability aspects of our land public transport system.
We were also aware of the need to be progressive in transforming urban public. Recently, the government announced plans to launch regulations for e-hailing services in response to the rapid growth of ride-sharing apps in Malaysia.
This forms part of efforts under the Taxi Industry Transformation Programme to elevate our taxi services to world-class standards, which includes revamping existing taxi services and operating systems.
Collectively, these new policies and implementation programmes ensure a healthy ecosystem to enable sustainable urban public transport transformation in Malaysia.
We have since achieved significant progress in enhancing the capacity of our public transport infrastructure. Iconic projects such as the mass rapid transit (MRT), which began offering services under its first phase in December 2016, and the LRT Line Extension Project for the Kelana Jaya and Ampang Lines, represent game-changers for the public transport system.
I was in the crowd when the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak declared the MRT open on Dec 16, 2016. A stranger in the crowd extended his hand and said: “I was part of the lab in 2010. You must feel totally elated. When we all proposed the MRT in the lab, many people thought we were just daydreaming! Today, it is a reality.”
Serving previously underserved, densely populated corridors in the Klang Valley and expanding connectivity in the region, these new rail lines have made it easier for more people to make the switch to public transport.
We can see this from the encouraging usage of the rail lines: The MRT has already transported over one million passengers since its launch just two months ago, while as at the end of 2016, the extended LRT lines recorded an average daily ridership of over 260,000 following its launch in June 2016.
Our efforts to improve public transport services and accessibility have also been supplemented with the Bus Network Revamp in Greater KL/Klang Valley, which improves first- and last-mile connectivity by expanding the coverage of buses and increasing the frequency and reliability of bus services.
As a result of these capacity increases, morning peak urban public transport ridership in Greater KL/Klang Valley rose to 435,439 in 2016, compared to 236,412 in 2010.
Additionally, as at 2015, urban public transport modal share had doubled to 21% from the level recorded in 2009.
SPAD’s recently released 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey has also shown that commuters are now happier with public transport services. In 2016, overall customer satisfaction with public transport had risen to 84% from 74% in 2015.
The likelihood of respondents using public transport in the future had also increased, from 67% in 2015 to 78% in 2016.
These developments point not only to less congestion on the road, but also a brighter future for our public transport system. While there is more work to be done, such as the integration of transport modes to enable seamless commuting and the completion of anchor infrastructure projects such as MRT 2 and 3, LRT3 and the Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail, among others, I am confident that the pace of our public transport system transformation is on the right track towards achieving world-class standards never before enjoyed in Malaysia.
Datuk Seri Idris Jala is CEO of Pemandu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. Fair and reasonable comments are most welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org