Imagine, if you will, a conversation that goes something like this:
SPAD: The MRT is part of a 20-year public transport master plan.
TRANSIT: May we see the plan?
SPAD: No you cannot see the plan
TRANSIT: Sorry, is that ‘cannot’ or ‘may not’?
TRANSIT: Why not?
SPAD: The plan will not be ready until September.
TRANSIT: Oh, so that’s what you meant by cannot. You don’t have a plan yet.
Of course this is not a real conversation – it’s more of a bad joke describing something that never happened. But if you think about it, SPAD is having this imaginary conversation with the public every time they tell us that they have a plan for public transport.
It isn’t that the public does not believe that SPAD has a plan or is developing a plan. It’s just that there is no logic in pushing the MRT project to be launched in July 2011 when the plan will not be ready until September 2011.
MRT part of 20-year plan (NST)
15 March 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: The Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT project is only the beginning of improved public transport services for the future, says Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.
“The project is part of a 20-year master plan to raise the standard of public transport service in stages.
“The plan is scheduled to be ready in September,” he said during his visit to Balai Berita here with a SPAD delegation yesterday.
[TRANSIT: Apparently some of the plan may be made public next month – but will it be an incomplete, rushed plan? Will SPAD have it ready?]
Syed Hamid said the plan would feature a range of short- and long-term initiatives that included the National Public Transport Policy and Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley Public Transport Plan.
[TRANSIT: If it is that good & comprehensive, we are sure that the public would not mind waiting to see the plan and debate it a little bit before the MRT goes forth.]
He said SPAD would focus on developing urban rail systems followed by other forms of public transport.
[TRANSIT: Big mistake – SPAD has to deal with the basic services (bus and taxi) and resolve those issues first, before developing the urban rail systems – otherwise the issues will be even more serious and the problems more entrenched.]
“We have plans to improve bus, taxi and terminal services, as well as connectivity between the various modes of public transport.
“In Thailand and Indonesia, their public transport systems are developing rapidly,” said SPAD chief operating officer Mohd Nur Kamal.
“We cannot afford to fall behind and the MRT project is part of our efforts to improve the public transport system.”
[TRANSIT: We need to fix the bus & taxi system for our own local sake – not just focus on competing with Thailand & Indonesia on the length of our rail networks.]
Construction of the MRT rail line is expected to start on July 1 in Sungai Buloh.
A dialogue session was held between SPAD and New Straits Times Press Bhd (NSTP) top management, comprising NSTP chairman Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar, group managing editor Datuk Zainul Arifin Mohammed Isa, New Straits Times group editor Datuk Syed Nadzri Syed Harun and Berita Harian group editor Datuk Mior Kamarul Shahid.
At the session, Syed Hamid addressed the public’s concerns on how the project would affect the residential areas along the proposed MRT rail line.
“The commission wants to be as transparent as possible, which is why we have been trying to get feedback from the public by holding roadshows since last month to display our plans to the public. The roadshows will run until May.
“There have been a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding the MRT project and we are now trying to get the right information out to the public.
“We are in the midst of setting up a page on our official website to address frequently-asked questions.”
The public can also share their concerns or lodge complaints by calling SPAD’s toll-free line at 1800-889-600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Parliament yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said the MRT’s estimated development cost would be known in May.
“The overall development cost, including the underground works, is being reviewed. The current public information display on the MRT project until May 14 will help to determine the cost of the project,” said Nazri in reply to a question by Tan Seng Giaw (Kepong-DAP).
He said Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd, the asset owner and MRT operator, was conducting a pre-qualification process for contractors.
“The tender will be opened after all the needs for the project have been worked out,” said Nazri.
On SPAD’s recent visit to MTR Corp in Hong Kong, Nazri said a total of RM65,206 was spent on travelling and accommodation for the eight-member delegation.
Nazri said SPAD members obtained better understanding of the rail model to reduce development cost.
“The delegates also learned about the challenges to build underground rail network,” he said in reply to a question by Loke Siew Fook (Rasah-DAP).
There you have it – improving the existing public transport system does not appear to be a priority for SPAD right now.
Of course there are the government transformation programme and economic transformation programme initiatives but these are not wholly a responsibility of SPAD. Rather, they are investments by the government into the Malaysian economy. In other words, building & promoting the MRT network is not SPAD’s job.
Planning for the public transport network is actually not supposed to be SPAD’s job either. SPAD is a national-level regulator, and developing a master plan for the Klang Valley should be the role of Local Public Transport Authorities that bring together all 4-stakeholder groups (government, infrastructure owners, operators and users).
Pemandu is supposed to be the champion of the MRT, with the Local Public transport Authority as Co-Champion! And to continue with that analogy, SPAD should be the referee!
Then you might ask, is it SPAD’s responsibility to improve the quality of bus and taxi service in Malaysia? The answer is no as well! (believe it or not!)
That responsibility lies with the operators themselves. SPAD is just there to enforce their own regulations and make sure that the business & regulatory environment that they create favours competitive, service-oriented public transport.
That is SPAD’s job – not to directly facilitate the MRT or urban rail construction, not to do public relations or to make local masterplans on behalf of the government.
SPAD’s job is to change Malaysian public transport and so far, they aren’t really doing their job. And they have had more than enough time to get themselves ready & prepared to do their job.
So why is everything so mixed up? Because SPAD is not sure who their boss really is. It’s not the Prime Minister’s Department or Pemandu.
SPAD works for the rakyat. The Rakyat is the boss!