Commentary: Budget 2009

Klang Valley TRANSIT advisor Moaz Ahmad comments on the steps proposed to Improve Public Transportation in the 2009 Budget.

Italic text denotes comments by Moaz.

29. The Government will continue to encourage greater utilisation of public transportation, in the context of improving the productivity and quality of life. I have recently experienced for myself the condition of the public transportation system in our capital city. I believe, a more efficient, reliable and integrated public transportation, which provides seamless travel and greater frequency of services, is required.

30. RapidKL and RapidPenang were set up to improve public transportation in the Klang Valley and Pulau Pinang. Currently, RapidKL provides bus services along 166 routes, covering more than 980 housing areas. Of this, 14% are unprofitable social routes not plyed by other public transport companies. This is in line with the Government’s aspiration to provide better public transportation for the benefit of Malaysians, especially those in the lower income group. On average, 400,000 passengers use bus services daily, while 350,000 use RapidKL rail services. Overall, RapidKL provides 44% of total public transport services in the Klang Valley.

Take note that no specific improvements to RapidKL bus services are mentioned in the budget!

31. RapidPenang provides bus services on 33 routes in 106 housing areas with ridership of 46,000 passengers daily, constituting 60% of total bus services in Pulau Pinang. To widen the service network, 200 additional buses will be provided, bringing the total to 350. With this, RapidPenang services will be extended to cover 14 new routes and ridership is estimated to increase to 120,000 passengers daily by end of 2009.

32. To further improve the efficiency of public transportation, a sum of RM35 billion will be expended during the period 2009 to 2014. This includes projects to enhance the capacity of existing rail services, build new rail tracks, increase the number of buses, as well as provide better infrastructure facilities.

Based on the estimated LRT construction cost of RM250-300 million per km, the total cost of the 72 km of LRT construction proposed in the budget will be approximately 18-21.6 billion – before cost overruns

This means that the government will spend as much as 70% of the money in the Klang Valley

33. The existing LRT system in the Klang Valley will be extended by 30 km, that is 15 km respectively, for Kelana Jaya and Ampang lines. Upon completion in 2011, the extensions are expected to benefit 2.6 million residents in the Subang Jaya-USJ and Kinrara-Puchong areas, compared with 1.9 million currently.

It is expected that the lines will put additional passengers onto an already overcrowded line. In addition, it is unlikely that Puchong residents will benefit from the LRT extension since it will only cover the northern areas of Puchong, and it will not provide a direct route to Kuala Lumpur

34. At the same time, 35 train carriages for the Kelana Jaya Line have been procured costing RM1.3 billion and these trains will be fully operational by early 2010.

35. With these measures, the capacity of the Kelana Jaya Line will more than double from the current 160,000 passengers daily to 350,000, while for the Ampang Line, it will increase from 150,000 to 280,000.

36. To further expand the urban rail service network in the Klang Valley, a new LRT line will be built along a 42 km route from Kota Damansara to Cheras. This new line, with a capacity exceeding 300,000 passengers daily, will, upon completion in 2014, provide rail services to more than one million residents in the housing, industrial and financial areas in the vicinity.

The measurement of daily passenger capacity should be complemented with the maximum carrying capacity of the line – in term of passengers per direction per hour.

We should be concerned that the Kota Damansara-Cheras line will be designed to carry a little bit more than 300,000 passengers daily – less than the expanded capacity of the already crowded Kelana Jaya LRT line. We foresee passenger capacity problems with this line in the future.

Daily passenger numbers of 300,000, 350,000 and 280,000 (for the Kota Damansara-Cheras, Kelana Jaya, and Ampang lines respectively) are relatively low, considering the high costs of construction of these lines.

We are concerned that the rail transit network in the Klang Valley will carry less than 1,000,000 passengers per day.

37. The Government also took over the assets and operations of KL Monorail, from a private operator in 2007. Several measures were taken to improve the operational efficiency and maintenance. Following this, the twelve trains acquired are now fully operational. Since the takeover, total ridership has increased by more than 10% from an average of 51,000 passengers daily to 57,000 currently. This takeover will contribute towards establishing a more integrated urban rail service in the Klang Valley.

Transit questions the actions of the government and Prasarana with respect to the KL Monorail. Since the takeover, Prasarana has taken no steps to integrate the KL Monorail system with the RapidKL LRT network. Prasarana has created a new company, KL Starrail Sdn. Bhd, to run monorail operations, rather than turning it over to RapidKL. There has been no mention of an integrated fare system or expansion of the monorail to 4-carriage operations, which would create more space for passengers.

38. The commuter rail services of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) will be upgraded. Towards this end, rehabilitation works are being undertaken on the existing 20 Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) and are expected to be completed in 2009. An additional 13 new units of EMUs will be acquired and be operational by 2011. With this, the capacity of the KTM Commuter is expected to increase from the current 350,000 to 500,000 passengers daily. To expand the commuter rail services network, a 7.5 km Sentul-Batu Caves line is under construction and is expected to be completed by 2010.

Transit notes that the 20 existing EMU trainsets is a significant decline from the original operational fleet of 62 units. The additional 13 EMU trainsets will bring KTM Komuter back to capacity levels seen in the late 1990s. Transit observes that passenger demand has tripled since 1995, while the fleet has decreased by two-thirds or 40 trainsets. On top of this, the length of the KTM Komuter route has been extended.

KTM Komuter should be operating a fleet of 150-180 trainsets to cater for the needs of passengers. The current fleet (20 units) and the future fleet (33 units by 2011) is completely and woefully inadequate.

39. In addition, the two major projects being implemented to improve KTMB services are the Double-tracking Electric Rail for Seremban-Gemas and Ipoh-Padang Besar, which are expected to be completed in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

40. An integrated transport terminal is being built in Bandar Tasik Selatan, to provide facilities for inter-urban taxis and buses, especially from the southern region in the Peninsular. The modern five-floor terminal can accommodate more than 130 taxis and 100 buses, complete with parking facilities and commercial lots, and will provide connectivity to the Ampang Line, ERL and KTM Commuter as well as urban taxis and buses in the Klang Valley. This terminal is expected to be operational in 2011.

41. To provide facilities for inter-urban taxis and buses from the northern region, a new integrated transport terminal will be built. This terminal will contribute towards further reducing traffic congestion in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

42. Public transport operators play an important role in ensuring a comprehensive network of services, as well as providing more efficient, safe and high quality services, both in urban and rural areas. To reduce their operating costs, the Government has recently increased the quota for diesel subsidy for public transportation. In addition, the Government will undertake the following measures:

First: provide a soft loan facility of RM3 billion under the Public Transportation Fund, administered by Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad (BPMB), to finance the acquisition of buses and rail assets; and

Second: reduce toll charges by 50% for all buses, except at border entry points, namely Johor Causeway, Second Link and Bukit Kayu Hitam, for a period of two years, effective 15 September 2008. The Government will provide compensation to toll operators for their loss of revenue, estimated at RM45 million per year.

43. In addition, bus operators will be given sales tax exemption on the purchase of locally assembled new buses and Accelerated Capital Allowance on the expenditure incurred. Further, the road tax will be reduced to RM20 a year for all bus and taxi operators, including rent-a-car and limousine operators.

No mention of the expansion of bus lanes or encouraging local councils to work with bus operators.

44. The Public Land Transportation Commission will be established under the Prime Minister’s Department, to plan, integrate, regulate and improve the overall public transportation services. This single authority is important to facilitate planning and coordination, as well as improve enforcement. The Commission is expected to commence operations by mid 2009.

The Transport Minister stated that the Commission would be ready by the end of 2008, now the government has already delayed things by 6 months.

No mention of Local Public Transport Authority

ps: additional comments are welcomed in the comments sections

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