The proposed MRT system fails the integration test and poses the question as to whether the Gamuda-MMC driven project and designed alignment serves the interest of the public transport users, or other hidden commercial interest
It has already been reported that the proposed site for the “KL Sentral MRT station” in front of the National Musuem will be a significant distance away from the current KL Sentral Transport Hub, which houses the KTM, KTM Komuter, KLIA Transit and Express as well as the Putra LRT services. The proposed location risks making the same mistake as the location of the KL Sentral Monorail station which is ludicrously disconnected from the Hub.
However, the KL Sentral MRT Station isn’t the only one which is sited at the baffling location. The Bandar Utama (BU) MRT Station is similarly placed more than a kilometre away from the existing bus terminal which is currently catering to shuttle, feeder, stagecoach and inter-city buses.
The BU MRT Station is expected to be the busiest station in the northern part of the alignment serving some 46,900 passengers daily, and is the 5th busiest of the 35 proposed stations. Only Pusat Bandar Damansara (60,700), Pasar Seni (73,800), Pasar Rakyat (67,300) and Plaza Phoenix (54,000) are expected to cope with more passengers.
Given the importance and high ridership expected at the station, why is the MRT station intentionally located approximately 1-kilometre’s walk away from the bus terminal? Instead, it is located along the LDP, right in front of Media Prima broadcast centre for TV3 etc.
The integration is particularly important since buses are expected to be the key dispersal mode of transport for such high passenger volume. What we will face otherwise, is that buses and private vehicles will crowd the roads leading to the MRT stations to pick up and drop passengers. It brings to question whether the consultants took into consideration the severe congestion along the LDP during peak hours when deciding on the location of the MRT stations. And based on the plans provided by SPAD, there is no expected major road infrastructure work to cope with the increase in traffic.
In addition, the ability of the station to achieve the 46,900 passenger target is also severely compromised by the fact that there is no public parking facilities with the exception of those in the 1 Utama shopping mall or the OneWorld Hotel.
What confounds us further is the fact that there is plenty of space to build an MRT station next to the bus terminal which is also supported by a fairly large open space car park at this point in time. In fact, from press reports, we are made to understand that an underground carpark can also be built underneath the existing Central Park next to the bus terminal. It doesn’t take a traffic consultant or an MRT specialist to conclude that the existing site for the Bandar Utama station is a very very bad idea.
Singapore, as the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) would agree, has one of the best public transport systems in the world. If one were to visit their MRT stations at key suburbs, it is highly integrated with a bus terminal within the town centre. In fact out of the 17 elevated stations outside of the Central Business District along the North-South Line, 10 are integrated with bus terminals.
In the northern and central township of Yishun and Ang Mo Kio for example, are served not only by the MRT but also a bus terminal which runs 22 and 18 trunk, feeder and intra-town services respectively. The townships have a population of 176,000 and 162,000 respectively. This is comparable to the population of Bandar Utama (120,000) and Damansara Utama (140,000) which are to be served by the BU MRT Station. In contrast, there are only 4 trunk services available at the BU bus terminal and SPAD has proposed 3 feeder services for the MRT station.
The BU MRT station plan is the perfect example of what is likely to go wrong when the country’s biggest public transport infrastructure investment is proposed and designed almost entirely by commercial parties with vested interest. SPAD, which is meant to be the regulator to protect the interest of the public transport user in this case, only play the bridesmaid’s role.
Instead of the land public transport masterplan which is due only in September this year to be the plan that dictates the public transport infrastructure development, the reverse is happening where the Gamuda-MMC proposed MRT plans are dictating how the public transport masterplan will be designed.
The outcome of such vendor-driven, “first-come-first-served” approach to building our key public transport infrastructure, is the proposed BU station where the interest of the commuters are made secondary to the interest of the commercial project developer.
We call upon SPAD to review the design, placement and overall public transport plans for the BU MRT station to ensure the interest of the local residents are prioritised. At the same time, the same review should be made on all the other stations to prevent negative or less desirable outcomes.