Sunday, January 31, 2010

High Speed Train to Kuantan?

Dodgy companies selling fancy rail projects to the Federal Government? Below is a letter from TRANSIT questioning this particular high-speed train project which will apparently cut short the travel between Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur to just a mere 45 minutes. It appears that this train project is even more ludicrous than the abandoned one proposed by YTL to connect Malaysia and Singapore earlier.

RE: Article - Traveling time 45 minutes - Site to be based in Pekan. KL - Kuantan High Speed Railroad to start in May

The members of the Association for the Improvement of Mass-Transit wish to express their concerns at the information in the article Traveling time 45 minutes - Site to be based in Pekan. KL - Kuantan High Speed Railroad to start in May. We are concerned with the information in the article, which suggests that construction for this project is set to begin in May 2010. If this were to happen it would be quite illegal.

The Railways Act 1991 makes it very clear that a Railways Scheme cannot start construction until a feasibility study has been completed and a copy of the Railway route has been sent to the Director General of the Department of Railways for conditional approval.

Once conditional approval has been granted by the Director General of the Department of Railways, then a 3 month public display period must take place. After the 3 months of public display, objections must be heard. If everything goes well, the Director General of the Department of Railways can recommend that the Minister of Transport approve the project.

So far there has been no conditional approval and no 3-month public display. So how can the project start construction in May 2010?

Another concern is the misleading claims about the feasibility of the project, the actual cost of the project, the time it will take to construct the line, and the length of time for the trip between KL and Kuantan.

The proposal is to link KL and Kuantan using High Speed Rail. However, the Titiwangsa range which is just north and east of KL would present a formidable barrier for the construction of this line. Anyone who has traveled along the KL-Karak highway knows that the Titiwangsa range is substantial. Building a highspeed rail line across the range would require very precise and detailed engineering, cost a lot of money and take a lot of time.

Yet Mr. Jayakumar of MRails International claims the project can be completed in 3-5 years.

Mr Jayakumar also claims that the project will cost RM1 billion. However in a later paragraph he says the 3 High Speed Railroad and Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) projects will cost RM1 billion together. To give you a comparison, the double-tracking & electriication of the existing conventional KTM railway between Rawang and Ipoh cost RM1.14 billon. The extension from Ipoh to Padang Besar is projected to cost at least RM12billion. The 17.7km extension of the Kelana Jaya LRT line (which uses a special Linear Induction Motor) will cost nearly RM4 billion.

Thus it does not seem possible that a high-speed rail link can be built across the Titiwangsa range, linking KL-Kuantan, for less than RM1billion within 5 years.

TRANSIT also questions the 'track record' of Mr. Jayakumar and his MRails International company. We note that Mr. Jayakumar has appeared out of nowhere in recent months and none of our contacts in the railway industry are familiar with him.

TRANSIT is deeply concerned that the public, the media and members of the civil service have been fooled by the actions of salesmen who have managed to convince state governments to take a look at their 'interesting' railway projects. These high speed rail proposals from MRails will join a long list of other unsuccessful railway proposals that have been 'sold' to state governments, such as the Aerorail in Melaka, the Aerobus in Penang, and the Johor Baru Maglev elevated monorail. A Malaysian company (Pembinaan Aktif Gemilang) is also involved in a very strange "Hydrogen High Speed Superhighway" that has been sold to the state government of Central Java.

People involved in these proposals usually focus on using high-pressure sales tactics to convince politicians to look at their proposals. They take money for the 'studies' , make attempts to get the attention of the media, and ultimately, waste people's time and make them look foolish. In Penang, the state government has already had to defend itself for granting the free use of state land to two companies for their 'test tracks' and approving a feasibility study for Aerobus. And we can only wonder how the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Menteri Besar of Pahang will extract themselves from this High Speed Railroad and Magnetic Levitation railway project.

Anyone who visits Jakarta, Indonesia can see the pillars of the proposed monorail line which was never built. Malaysian cities are littered with enough abandoned housing and commercial projects. We do not need to add a few incomplete railway lines to the existing mess.

Sincerely

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT
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