AS a daily user of public transport in the Klang Valley, I must admit I am very upset that the new government under Pakatan Harapan has failed to show any serious interest in developing urban public transport here.
The zero-rated GST (goods and services tax) and RM1 trillion debt should not be excuses for the new government to ignore the needs and demands of public transport.
Australia’s biggest city, Sydney, is set to open its metro train service next year; Jakarta is slated to open one next year too.
One of the most congested Asian cities, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is slated to open its first-ever metro train service in 2020.
Even the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, is constructing its first-ever MRT line. Manila is building an extension to its metro rail line. Our neighbour, Singapore, has drawn up plans to expand its MRT network even though the system is already well developed.
We cannot afford to just sit and watch our neighbours and other cities moving ahead.
The cancellation of the MRT Circle Line in the Klang Valley must be seriously reconsidered. Areas such as Mont Kiara, Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Bangsar, which are supposed to be served by the MRT Circle Line, are all heavily populated areas with a mixed commercial and residential population. What are the alternatives considered? Introduction of more feeder buses? A halt on developments in these areas until the government can afford the MRT Circle Line?
I wonder if our newly elected Cabinet Ministers take public transport regularly?
I find it amusing that the new government is willing to allocate huge sums of money to abolish tolls, subsidise petrol and abolish the GST on new cars.
I have yet to find any other government in the world that is trying to make driving cheaper than taking public transport. We are probably the first country in the world to encourage more cars on the road to contribute to congestion and pollution.Do our politicians have any idea how critical the congestion level has become now in the Klang Valley?
Here are some unpopulist moves the government should consider if they are really interested in developing urban public transport.
1) Abolish fuel and petrol subsidies in the Klang Valley. Or introduce a tax on petrol in the Klang Valley. Tax gained from this can be used to fund public transport development. We need to make driving expensive in order to have affordable public transport. Also, fewer cars on the road means better and faster feeder bus services.
2) Don’t abolish tolls. Instead, money collected from tolls in the Klang Valley can be used to subsidise our expensive public transport. There’s also an urgent need to introduce congestion charges in the KL City Centre. Cities such as London and Singapore have already introduced this.
3) Ensure all urban highways, especially those under construction such as DASH, EKVE and SUKE, have dedicated bus lanes.
4) Allow local councils to plan feeder bus routes instead of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
5) Discourage corporations from giving parking benefits and company cars to senior management and petrol cards to employees. Instead, encourage them to introduce shuttle services with a van to transport employees to the nearest train station. Encourage companies to provide Touch&Go allowances for employees. Everyone needs to play a role here.
Once again, the zero-rated GST and RM1 trillion debt must not be a hindrance to public transport development. Remember, public transport is a symbol of a nation’s progress.
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