“Komuter Selatan” service in Iskandar-JB by 2014?

TRANSIT noted this very interesting article in the news today revealing a proposal by Malaysian Steel Works (Masteel) and KUB Malaysia to build a 100km intercity “commuter” rail system with 25 stations in the Iskandar Development Region of Johor.

The project is said to have a value of RM1.23 billion.

TRANSIT has discussed the proposal for a “Komuter Selatan” service in the past. With the increased investment in south Johor’s Iskandar Development Region, as well as improved ties between Singapore and Malaysia and increased activity at Malaysian ports at Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelapas, it seems that now is a good time for the investment.

But from what we gather from the article, it seems that rather than taking on the electrification and double tracking project themselves, KTMB may instead tender for private companies to build, and transfer the infrastructure, as well as own and operate the rail service.

More information and articles after the jump!

If approved by the government, this will be the first major rail project that would use KTMB-owned rail but would not directly involve KTMB.

Masteel, KUB To Jointly Run Inter-city Rail Transit System In Iskandar Malaysia (Bernama)
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 (Bernama) — Malaysia Steel Works (KL) Bhd (Masteel) and KUB Malaysia Bhd Wednesday signed a joint-venture agreement to jointly build and operate [a] 100km inter-city rail transit system costing RM1.23 billion at Iskandar Malaysia in Johor.

The system will also be linked to the Mass Rapid Transit line in Singapore. [TRANSIT: As you know, the intention is to have the new Singapore MRT Downtown line eventually cross over the border to Johor Baru Sentral.]

Masteel and KUB will hold 60 per cent and 40 per cent stakes, respectively, in the joint-venture company, Metropolitan Commuter Network Sdn Bhd.

The proposed inter-city rail transit will have up to 25 commuter stations in major towns in the Iskandar Malaysia economic corridor in the initial stage.

“We will use the existing Keretapi Tanah Melayu rail and will add four new stations in the growth areas along KTM’s rail path,” said Masteel managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tai Hean Leng.

“We hope the agreement with the government will be completed within this year and we expect to fully operate at the end-2013,” said Tai.

The project has two components: the “Build Transfer” of the rail transit infrastructure and the “Own Operate” of the inter-city train system.

“We are still having discussions to use the suitable electricity train coaches and we are looking at China and European countries,” he said.

On the socio-economic front, Tai said this project would ease traffic congestion, estimated to grow at 4.2 per cent every year along Johor and Singapore.

About 70 per cent of the construction cost of the rail transit infrastructure would be funded under the Public-Private Partnership scheme.

“With this project, we will see constant recurring income and we will be the first private train operator in Malaysia,” Tai added.

TRANSIT Says:

As far as we know, all the companies that operate public transport in Malaysia are private, but some are government-owned (making them indirectly public companies) or government-linked.

But it is clear from the information above that the company is ready to take on the electrification and double tracking of the railway between Tanjung Pelapas and Pasir Gudang – and possibly down to Tanjung Puteri (JB Sentral) as well.

By having a private company complete the EDT project and operate the ‘Komuter’ service, KTMB is absolved of the responsibility for operating a money-losing public transport service and can just focus on their (profitable) freight operations and (heavily-subsidized) intercity operations.

As you can imagine, the members of TRANSIT will be interested to see more details of the project and to see whether KTMB will put the EDT project out to competitive tender in an open and transparent manner.

From the article below, it also appears that the JV companies are also interested in expanding into freight and intercity services if the demand exists.

Masteel, KUB propose rail transit in Iskandar

Masteel and KUB have formed Metropolitan Commuter Network Sdn Bhd (MCN) to undertake the project. Masteel holds a 60 per cent stake and the remaining stake, by KUB.

The 100km-intercity rail system – the first in Johor – has been proposed to run on KTM Bhd (KTMB)’s existing rail track, covering 25 commuter stations in major towns. It may eventually be connected to the MRT line from Singapore.

Tai and KUB group managing director Datuk Mohd Nazar Samad are optimistic of returns from the project as it will provide a recurring income during the 25-year concession period.

For the rail transit project, MCN has to secure licensing from The Land Public Transport Commission and concession from the Economic Planning Unit.

The project, which will take 24 months to complete, will involve the rolling stock, electrification, signalling as well as upgrading existing stations and construction of four new stations at new growth areas.


TRANSIT Says:

Again, we will be following this project and hoping to share more information with the public as soon as it is available.

It becomes more and more clear that the government and private businesses are ready to move forward on public transport infrastructure projects at this time.

The question is when and how the improvements to service quality will actually start to take place.

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20 thoughts on ““Komuter Selatan” service in Iskandar-JB by 2014?”

    1. Or worse, ending up like some of the concessions in Australia and the UK, where the government has had to break the concession (Connex Melbourne) or take over the rail lines (various places in the UK).

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  1. Sounds interesting. I’ve always felt the line to Pasir Gudang could be used in this manner, though to be frank, to function well, a line to Pasir Gudang would need to be triple-tracked so as to have a single-tracked goods line to serve the port.

    Or you could quad-track it and run local/express service AND goods services.

    Seriously tho’, it sounds like a KLish start, ala KTM Komuter. Hopefully it works out better.

    I think we need it to be double-tracked except for the aforementioned goods corridor where three tracks would be needed to prevent the goods/passenger traffic conflicts that have for years been kicking the line to Port Klang in the guts.

    1. Hi @Chia

      You are correct that there will be a need for triple tracking – either now or in the future as demand for passenger services increases.

      At present, it is quite possible that passenger demand will be limited, one-way “in & out” commuter service rather than 2-way service like Komuter “Tengah” / “Lembah Klang”.

      The other issue that will have to be factored in is rail service from Singapore port to Peninsular Malaysia.

      Although KTM will no longer have control of the railway, there is no way that the Port of Singapore will give up its only freight rail link to Southeast Asia.

      I am confident that the transport planners in Iskandar have learned from some of the mistakes made in KL. Giving the project to a concessionaire (instead of KTM itself) and introducing contracting out for bus services are two examples of “steps forward”.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

      ps. Check out a good source for videos of the existing rail link (as well as others)

  2. From a service perspective, the service would have limited impact on JB’s existing population given the alignment. From a land use perspective, however, it can further redirect the city’s development towards the corridors of Masai, Gelang Patah and North-South Highway.

  3. Well, it’s in no small part due to the fact it’s an old goods line.

    Ethan is right about the possible encouragement to move to outer areas along the corridor.

    What would be good is lots of car parking.

  4. Dear Friends

    May I apologize for interfering. I read the above responses and was surprise to learn of my ignorance. I have to fetch my epileptic brother to work now nearby, near Sin Chew (wish they have not cancel the regular bus service from Tmn Bahagia Stn.). I hope to give my response soon after I have completed some important duties I have to do. Please excuse me. Thanks from the heart.

    Rgds
    Kt Sam

  5. Dear Chia

    If you speak of Singaporean brothers, I have two cousin brothers who are close to me. They are the bosses of Singapore Furniture at Geylang Road. One is also an epileptic while the other plays a very significant role in the furniture business (import and export). Maybe you can patronize their main shop. It is at No. 602 along the main road. You can start to look for Connie but usually my aunt, Connie’s mother is around to serve customers. My aunt is a very comprehensible lady. You can get the best furniture deals with her. Alright? Chia?

    By the way, Chia, can you please, please tell me what KTM stands for. You do not want me to meet you and you want to share my family, so I would appreciate very much if you can just tell me what KTM stands for. If you should tell me what it stands for, I would introduce to you more of my six brothers (father’s brothers’ sons included). Waiting for your reply.

    Rgds
    Selfish Me
    SAM

  6. So, now, do you know what the word Tanah Melayu is? So, you see how bad I feel when the Singapore Government wants to demolish the Tanjung Pagar Station? They want the MRT to replace the Keretapi Tanah Melayu! Do you see what I see? Are you really a lower six student? Don’t you see want the Government is destroying. I luv u, LP Chia. My brothers would love to meet you. I have to stop here for today.

    Rgds
    SAM

    1. @leewang

      Let’s hope not – there is no way to run a successful local rail service if it single-track.

      2x the rail = 10x the train movements.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

  7. but with is 1.2b sufficient for double tracking for 100km of rail?

    Came over with this article:
    http://transit.vectordesigns.org/content/view/61/35/

    refitting, double tracking, electrification, signaling of 7.2km rail with 4 stations cost 515mil or 71mil/km

    in this case 100km shld cost 7100mil or 7.1b, so i m not sure whether double tracking is involved (especially when it is not mentioned in the article above)

    1. Hi @Leewang

      1.2bn is not sufficient – that is why TRANSIT has reserved comment on this announcement as we suspect there may be other factors involved in the project.

      To use your example, we can say that the project should cost at least RM5bn – remember that a larger scale project can often see cost efficiencies which will drive down the average cost.

      Hence, instead of paying RM71mn per km for 7.2km, the cost might be RM60mn per km for 72km of rail (note that this is just a rough estimate).

      It can also be considered that the Batu Caves EDT project was carried out in a busy urban area and along a major road (Jalan Ipoh) whereas the project in the Iskandar region is mostly in non-urban areas.

      However, as we said before, we do not know enough about the details of the project to comment on the costs at this time.

      Our view on the process of planning & developing the “Komuter Selatan” service is clear:

      1. The project should involve the full Electrification & double tracking of the rail spurs from Kempas to both Ports as well as triple tracking or quad tracking of the main line from Kempas to JB Sentral

      2. The project should be open to all interested railway consortia, including Malaysian and international firms.

      3. The project should be awarded on an open tender basis with sealed bid tender. Direct negotiation should be avoided as much as possible.

      Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

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