Thursday, February 19, 2009

Promised LRT Extensions Delayed

Charts courtesy of The Malay Mail

Another broken promise by the Barisan Nasional government. Only Malay Mail published the story on the delay to the promised extension to the Kelana Jaya LRT line to Subang Jaya.
The trains Klang Valley commuters have been waiting for to alleviate their misery will be delayed — yet again.

Word from transport industry sources is that planned additional lines and stations for the light rail train (LRT) network is now projected to be ready only in 2013 — three years later than originally planned.
To our Minister of Transport, Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, how come no announcement? What has happened to all which have been promised in the Budget 2009 for public transportation? What happened to the RM35 billion public transportation fund, and the Public Transport Commission promised by the Prime Minister himself?

Below is a letter from Moaz Ahmad from the Association For The Improvement Of Mass Transit’ (TRANSIT) on the issue.
LRT delay to 2013 (at least) is not a surprise

The quiet announcement of the delay of the opening of the LRT extension to at least 2013 probably did not come as a surprise to many Malaysians. After all, the LRT extensions have been promised, promised, and promised again. Malaysians keep on believing these promises hoping that things are going to happen because of the confident announcements coming from the cabinet and the Prime Minister's office.

One has to wonder if the recent switch of the Defense and Finance portfolios may have something to do with the delays. When Dato' Seri Abdullah became Prime Minister he reviewed many of the projects initiated by Tun Dr. Mahathir and shelved some of them (such as the double tracking and electrification). Would it be much of a surprise if Dato Seri Najib want to do a similar review?

There are also many mixed messages and "behind-the-scenes" events that make it clear that Prasarana, the National Infrastructure Company, will not be able to complete the LRT until 2013 (if not later). Prasarana's former CEO, Shaipudin Shah Hasan, resigned suddenly on September 19, 2008 - the day after attending the National Summit on Urban Public Transport and talking about plans for the extensions of the LRT. The Finance Ministry has announced that there is a plan to integrate Prasarana and RapidKL into a single company - but the Land Public Transport Commission may change things even more after it is created. On the ground, it has been reported that contractors are conducting soil tests in Subang Jaya - but Prasarana has not appointed a primary contractor or finalized their proposal for the LRT extensions.

Even more interesting are these points. It is almost funny to hear that Prasarana is unsure that it can secure the RM5billion in funding for the LRT extension. Remember that Prasarana is owned 100% by the Finance Ministry. How can it be that a company owned by the Treasury of Malaysia cannot secure RM5 billion in funding for an LRT project?

Also, if the government is planning on the extension, why is a contractor engaged by Prasarana asking to arrange a meeting with residents of Subang Jaya and USJ to share ideas for an integrated public transport network? Do they have a plan or not? And if they have a plan, why is it not public and open for discussion?

Prasarana once conducted a survey of households in the Klang Valley to determine their preferred uses and modes of transportation but they have not made the results of this survey public or engaged in any public discussion about the way people use public transport and other modes. They have not prepared or explored any alternatives beyond LRT extensions to show that the benefits of the proposed LRT extensions will justify the massive costs of construction.

They have provided no clear information to show that the proposed extensions are absolutely vital to suburban communities like Subang Jaya and USJ and Putra Heights. They have not examined any other corridors though it is known that urban Kuala Lumpur is in desperate need for at least 5 more lines.

Finally, they did not even have the courtesy to send a representative to a dialogue initiated by the ADUN of Subang Jaya last year.

This dismal "track record" (pardon the pun) makes it clear that there is a long way to go to improve public transport in Malaysia. It also makes it clear that the public should not easily accept and not question plans or promises from the government. If we really want to see improvements to public transport then we must have open public discussion, public consultation ... and active public participation.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
klangvalley.transit (at) gmail (dot) com
I'll make the call again. If the Federal Government is unable to sort out our public transportation system throughout the country, for goodness sake, delegate the responsibilities to the respective state and local governments.
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