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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why all roads lead to Klang Valley

More transit developments are expected in the Klang Valley in the near future, as it rides the road to modernisation.

INTERVIEW

PETALING JAYA: Size, location and economic importance are some of the reasons why the Klang Valley is getting all the public transport attention.

However, Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Syed Hamid Albar denied that the rest of Malaysia was neglected over matters of transport.

“At present, it seems as though we are interested in the Klang Valley. It’s got the biggest (traffic) problems, it’s the capital… a certain population lives here,” he told FMT in an exclusive interview last week.

“I don’t think you should give the impression that we don’t care about the other states… The Klang Valley is a test bed. It’s where we are doing the first project,” he added, referring to the My Rapid Transit (MRT).

Spearheaded by the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the MRT may be Malaysia’s biggest infrastructure project yet. Only one line – the Sungai Buloh-Kajang track – has been announced thus far. It has also been estimated by some to cost at least RM53 billion.

Syed Hamid said that the commission had been talking to various transit associations as well as state governments over public transport.

Citing the Public Transport Master Plan expected to be released in September, he said that SPAD’s idea behind tackling Malaysia’s traffic problems was to “move together”.

“We are not saying that while we are focusing on the Klang Valley, we are not doing other things. Let us have the plan so we can move together,” he said.

Backbone of public transport

He hinted that Malaysia was pushing for more rail-based developments, especially between the states.

“We are making the MRT the backbone of the public transport system (in Kuala Lumpur). And we are also studying a high-speed rail, the double-tracking (electrification project), the ETS (Electic Train Service) for Ipoh.”

“So there are many… the catalysts for development in this region will be rail-based. I think once there is connectivity between the states, it would be easier for us to plan other things,” he said.

It is easy to see that the Klang Valley is getting the lion’s share of public transport developments.

According to the 2010 Population and Census Report, more than 7.1 million people live in both Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Economic opportunities in the region are also higher than the rest of the country, causing many from across to migrate here.

This has led to many large-scale projects mushrooming across Malaysia’s most populous region. Much of Kuala Lumpur – and neighbouring cities – is home to multiple railway lines and bus routes.

Rail services include the RapidKL Ampang and Kelana Jaya LRT (Light Rail Transit) lines, the KL Monorail, KTM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) Komuter, Express Rail Link (ERL) and the upcoming MRT.

Buses, on the other hand, were plied by companies such as RapidKL, MetroBus, Transnasional and Selangor Omnibus.

Banking on public transport

The Klang Valley also acts as a hub for many express buses in the Peninsula, as well as the KTM Intercity and ETS.

Even with the large number of projects, Syed Hamid agreed that the public transport system in the Klang Valley was not efficient, especially where connectivity was concerned.

“It’s not properly connecting, that’s why we’re improving on the Monorail (and other lines)… In the future, we are going to buy more cars for all the lines,” he said.

On the purchase of 38 new EMUs (Electric Multiple Units) for the KTM Komuter, he hinted that the government might order more four-car coaches for the Kelana Jaya RapidKL LRT.

“But the biggest problem for us is the buses and taxis. In our thinking, the buses are to have two approaches: the BET (Bus Express Transit) and BRT (Bus Rapid Transport),” Syed Hamid said.

He was confident that these bus systems and train upgrades would entice Malaysians to take more public transport, and result in a higher transit riderships across the board.

“When we (SPAD) were formed, the use of public transport (share) was only 12% (in KL). Now with continuous improvement, it has gone up to 17%,” he said.

Syed Hamid added that with additional developments, he hoped to see 25% of the Klang Valley using public transport by the end of 2012.

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