Making good of the transport policy

ON Jan 6, Transport Minister Anthony Loke took a walk at the Pasar Seni LRT Station. He noticed that even after massive spending on the Klang Valley’s urban rail system over the past 25 years, service quality still left much to be desired.

At the station’s new link bridge, one of the two new travelators was not functioning. To add to the minister’s disappointment, three out of four KTM ticketing machines were out of order!

This incident exposed the weakest links in our fully government-owned land public transport system operated by Prasarana Malaysia Berhad and KTM Berhad – accountability and the need for closer monitoring and stricter enforcement of standards on a consistent basis.

The National Transport Policy 2019-2030 (NTP), which was unveiled by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Oct 17 last year, needs close monitoring to prevent another “game-changer” document from gathering dust on a shelf.

The main objective of the NTP is to set a “single governing framework to provide clarity” in Malaysia’s transport sector. In line with universal standards, the NTP outlines policy thrusts and strategies to, among others, enhance competitiveness, socio-economic impact and protect the environment.

The NTP document encompasses all key elements of previous government documents and covers the four main sectors – aviation, shipping, freight and land transport. The NTP will obviously be as effective as the weakest links in the public transport ecosystem. These are briefly outlined as follows:

1. The downsized Land Public Transport Agency (Apad) needs to play a more effective role. From an agency with perceived clout under the Prime Minister’s Department, it is now just “another agency” under the Transport Ministry (MOT).

2. The poor enforcement of key performance indicators (KPI) on the operators is unresolved. KTM, entrusted with billions of ringgit in new assets over the last 30 years and given huge subsidies, has been under-performing. Since completion of the North-South Double-Tracking Electrified Project in 2014, observers are still unaware of its operational performance. The same applies to KTM Komuter’s Klang Valley operations.

3. The 40% target set for usage of public transport by 2030 is an old target set by the Economic Planning Unit for Kuala Lumpur. This was subsequently “modified” to an unrealistic shorter period but has now been rectified in this document. There is also a need to recalculate modal split targets for the Klang Valley.

4. There is a disconnect between public transport investments and road construction. Roads are built as competitive options to urban rail transport. In addition, tolls are being reduced or abolished to actually “encourage” usage of private vehicles. The promotion of public transport must remain a priority.

5. Transit oriented development (TOD) is an important element as seen in cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore. This has not been pursued aggressively in the Klang Valley. TOD, apart from commercial hubs, must include affordable housing located close to urban rail stations.

6. Another element for review is the provision of additional public car park facilities within the city centre. This totally negates the expenditure on the urban rail system to move people from polluting and fuel-sapping private vehicles into modern and comfortable electric trains.

7. The key factors in the promotion of our mass public transport system needs to be actively implemented. This includes efficient feeder buses, pedestrianisation and higher parking charges, which can be used as additional revenue for more commuter facilities.

8. The relatively cheap ownership of private vehicles and fuel subsidies is another negative for public transport. Studies show that most cars in the city are low-occupancy vehicles. Our fuel emission standards need upgrading, too, as high sulphur levels are released from low quality diesel and gasoline.

9. Sites identified for TOD need to be reactivated. An eyesore in Kuala Lumpur is the abandoned Plaza Rakyat Project. The builders of the Ampang Line LRT constructed a station on the site in the 1990s. The project is still dormant in the city centre. The other “abandoned” proposal is the Dang Wangi Station Project (Kelana Jaya Line) which was conceived in the late 1990s. The original foundation catered for a 40-storey condominium tower and mixed development project. This is a huge loss of potential revenue for the government as the owner-operator.

10. As a safer commuter environment can increase ridership, stricter enforcement is needed to deal with motorcyclists disobeying traffic rules. The increasing number of food delivery riders and introduction of motorcycle taxis may worsen the current situation if adequate controls are not in place.

11. Allowing mobile hawkers and semi-permanent food stalls on pedestrian pavements is another negative factor affecting the safety and comfort of commuters.

The NTP 2019-2030 has captured key aspects for advancement. Beyond a comprehensive document, we need political will, leadership, institutional integrity and transparency. Ultimately, greater success is decided by the weakest links in the transport ecosystem.


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