Get the basics right on transport policy


  • Letters
  • Saturday, 02 Nov 2019

THE National Transport Policy (NTP) 2019–2030 shows that the government is committed to improving the national transportation scene, but a policy is only good in words if no tangible efforts are done to implement it.

In my opinion, the whole country (everyone living in Malaysia) needs to get the basics right first for the NTP to work, and this is especially true with regards to Policy Thrust 2 (Optimise, build and maintain the use of transport infrastructure, services and networks to maximise efficiency), Policy Thrust 3 (Enhance safety, integration, connectivity and accessibility for seamless journey) and Policy Thrust 4 (Advance towards green transport ecosystem).

For Policy Thrust 2, the liberation of the rail services should have been done a long time ago. The government should not have allowed Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) to have a monopoly and should have encouraged private companies to create competition. This practice is common elsewhere, including Japan where, although Japan Railways is still the biggest rail operator, other railway companies are able to coexist with each other.

The same can be said when AirAsia entered the aviation industry, causing a stir for Malaysia Airlines.

KTMB should have ensured that basic services like the e-ticket booking system are up to par. Currently, it is not convenient to book multiple sectors in one transaction (e.g. two separate tickets if travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru instead of just one) and has an annoying page refresh after three searches. Users also cannot buy tickets more than a month in advance. In fact, there should be an immediate improvement since Japan’s rail experts came here recently to offer assistance at the request of our prime minister, “Japanese experts on mission to develop human capital for KTMB” (Bernama, Oct 14).

Other than focusing on KTMB, the Federal and also the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak should have a transport masterplan to connect the people and improve the connectivity of the Kuching and Kota Kinabalu international airports.

Policy Thrust 3 is the hardest to achieve as the public still has the tidak-apa (lackadaisical) attitude. According to the NTP, Malaysia has 24 accident deaths per 100,000 population, of which 63% are motorcyclists. WHO’s Global Status Report On Road Safety 2018 also reports a similar figure of 23.6. This puts Malaysia as the third highest for accident deaths in the region behind Thailand (WHO: 32.7) and Vietnam (WHO: 26.4).

Moreover, there are regular news reports on road rage and unethical public service vehicle drivers as well as repetitive traffic law offenders to the point where it seems unnecessary to install traffic lights or draw road markings. In fact, just a few days ago, a motorcyclist cursed at me as I was walking on the pedestrian walkway because I was blocking him.

To tackle part of the problem, the whole driving syllabus must be revamped. Six hours of theory, to which most do not pay attention, and practical lessons just enough for passing the test are not doing any good for Malaysia’s road safety. More thorough theory is needed, defensive driving should be part of the syllabus and more stringent tests must be done to produce a competent motorist. Other than that, the authorities have to be more active in enforcement and also conduct frequent internal investigations to catch corrupt officers.

On the issue of seat belts, police and Road Transport Department officers should wear their seat belts, especially when they are not in pursuit of suspected wrongdoers, to set a good example to the public.

Lastly, for Policy Thrust 4, the authorities should conduct strict enforcement on vehicle exhaust and noise emissions for both private and commercial vehicles, as it seems only effective when the Puspakom inspection date is nearing. To promote greener driving, public transport providers should train and constantly evaluate driving practices (e.g. gentler vehicle acceleration instead of race-like acceleration) that could result in fuel savings and better passenger comfort.

Moving to electric vehicles, electric or hybrid cars are still considered a luxury in Malaysia and would only contribute to the road congestion. The government should scrap the third national car project and develop the electric rail industry, which has better economy and social benefits than cars.

All in all, the whole country needs to get the basics right before moving to bigger agendas for the NTP to work.

AL PEN

Penang


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