Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MRT proposal fails integration test

The current proposed location of the Bandar Utama MRT station is roughly between the LDP highway and the trees on the far right to the east of 1 Utama mall — Pictures by Choo Choy May.

Petaling Jaya, March 11 — Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua has questioned the planning of the proposed MRT system, saying that the lack of synergistic integration with bus terminals and other train lines could impair ridership targets and dispersal of commuters.

He noted that in Singapore, which has a widely-admired public transport system, 10 of the 17 MRT stations outside its Central Business District along the North-South line are integrated with bus terminals offering trunk, feeder and intra-town services.

“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,” said Pua in a press conference today.

He noted as an example that the Bandar Utama MRT station in Petaling Jaya, which is expected to serve 46,900 passengers daily, was not integrated with a growing bus hub located about 1km further west of the proposed station which is also near ample open land for expansion.

Pua claimed that the MRT proposal is being affected by commercial interests.The outspoken DAP MP also claimed that the ability of the Bandar Utama station to achieve its expected passenger numbers is also severely compromised by the fact that there are no public parking facilities with the exception of those in the 1 Utama shopping mall and One World hotel which are not meant for MRT commuters.

Pua also claimed that the MRT proposal, which has been touted as the country's biggest ever infrastructure project, is being affected by commercial interests and that the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had appeared to take a backseat to the whole process.

“The BU MRT station 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,” he said. “SPAD, which is meant to be the regulator to protect the interest of the public transport user in this case, only plays the bridesmaid’s role.”

Pua suggested that SPAD reviews the design, placement and overall public transport plans for the MRT stations to prevent any negative or undesirable outcomes.

The lack of seamless integration has been by far the biggest criticism of the city’s existing transit system, prompting some to describe it as an embarrassment to KL which has aspirations to become one of the top 20 most liveable and economically vibrant cities in the world.

Examples of existing integration failures include the Masjid Jamek interchange where commuters once had to exit the station and cross a busy road to change to another train line, and the Dang Wangi-Bukit Nenas “interchange” where commuters must exit the LRT station and walk about five minutes and buy another ticket in order to change to the monorail line.

Pua also noted that the proposed location of the KL Sentral MRT station is a “significant distance” away from the KL Sentral hub which currently houses the KTM, KTM Komuter, KLIA Transit, KLIA Express and Putra LRT services, and risks making the same mistake as the existing monorail station which is disconnected from the hub.

The Sungai Buloh-Kajang line alignment is currently on display for public viewing until May 14 at seven locations across the city — Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Selayang Municipal Council, Kajang Municipal Council, Bangsar LRT station and the SPAD office in Menara Dayabumi.

The public can provide their feedback on the project via email to or through the SPAD toll-free line at 1-800-82-6868.

Ample land to the west of 1 Utama mall 1km from the proposed MRT station, where a large car park and a growing bus hub is located.

Underground is the way to go

Urban transport: Underground is the way to go

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I REFER to comments made by Go MRT Interim Support Committee chairman Ted Tugal in the article "Group wants public to 'Go MRT'" (The Malay Mail, March 3).

I must state that he hascompletely missed the point and is barking up the wrong tree as overall, the residents, especially in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) and Kota Damansara, are not against the MRT project.

The main issue is not the temporary inconvenience during the construction stage that is alleged by him.
Instead, the fundamental call is for the elevated track to go underground.

The elevated track, running over the Persiaran Surian and the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP), will have trains running just metres away from thousands of existing homes, making it intolerable to live due to the noise, pollution and frequency of trains passing through every few minutes.

It is not that there are no alternative solutions as there are well-based and sound reasons for going underground.

Firstly the Mass RapidTransit (MRT) track is a “retro-fit” being squeezed over narrow road reserves.

Poor planning has resulted in there being no provision for MRT reserves with proper buffers.

Albeit it will cost more to go underground, but the total long-term benefits must override the short term, one-off cost savings of construction.

The intolerable noise and pollution are permanent and recurring damages.

The scaring of the vista and blocking of sunlight are also long term detrimental factors.

The inflexibility for future expansion of both the MRT and the roads below should also be taken into account.

The additional cost can be off-set with less land acquisition and also the commercial development of areas beside all these underground stations as widely done in MRT stations worldwide.

Tugal has asked those living mere meters away from the elevated track to make the supreme sacrifice for the greater good.

I wonder how he would react if his house was similarly affected.

In developed countries, those whose properties that are debased by public infrastructure are properly compensated.

In Malaysia, however, there is no such provision in the Acquisition Act.

You only have a locus standi to claim injurious affection after any part of your property has been acquired and have no claims whatsoever even if you are situated right on the boundary of the MRT.

Other developed countries also have Constitutional protection of the peaceful enjoyment of their properties from any state actions, based on the fundamental rule of the 'Right to Life'.

It is supremely selfish of those who will enjoy convenient access to the MRT and to ignore the plight of those who have to suffer constant intolerable noise and pollution with trains passing by next to their homes every few minutes.

For those who have called us selfish, please search your soul and be honest. How would you react if your home was next to the elevated MRT track?

Please show some compassion and humanity and join us in unison to lobby for the track to go underground for the wider and long-term good of the community.

Our call is for a holistic evaluation of the options and we call upon all residents and people like Tugal to be more selfless and ensure the MRT serves the interest of the wider good and not only those that will benefit and do not need to sacrifice anything for it.

Bandar Utama

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PKR calls for freeze on MRT plans

PKR calls for freeze on MRT plans (TMI)

By Clara Chooi
March 08, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — PKR demanded today that the government temporarily shelve its plans to build the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system pending the formation of a parliamentary select committee to oversee details of the project.

Party vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar told a press conference in Parliament today that this was because the MRT, touted as the most expensive construction project in the country to date, was mired in too many questions regarding its cost estimate and the selection of its project delivery partner (PDP).

The Lembah Pantai MP questioned the government’s selection of Gamuda-MMC as the PDP, claiming that she had information that Scomi Group Berhad had proposed to construct a similar rail system at a lower cost.

“We heard from reliable sources that Scomi has given a proposal for a similar public transport project in Kuala Lumpur for RM25 billion.

“We ask the government to clarify and, if indeed this is true, to state why their proposal was rejected in favour of Gamuda-MMC,” she said.

Initial estimates from Gamuda-MMC have placed the cost of the three-line MRT system at a whopping RM36.6 billion, making it the most expensive construction project ever undertaken by the government.

According to regulators Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), the project will be wholly funded by the government through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to be set up by the Finance Ministry.

“We are aware that the MRT is the single largest public infrastructure project in Malaysia and while its realisation will bring benefits to Klang Valley residents, the project is still mired with too many questions.

“The cost of the MRT may even balloon to four times that of the (RM12.5 billion) Port Klang Free Zone project. Furthermore, there is the lack of integration plans to the present rail system,” said Nurul Izzah (picture).

She added that Gamuda-MMC’s experience was in “rail-based and tunnelling”, which was insufficient compared to Scomi.

“Scomi is one of only two integrated monorail system providers in the world to offer end-solutions including the design, fabrication and integration of the monorail rolling stock and related electromechanical systems,” she said.

She added that Scomi was also a Malaysian firm that has been successful in its bids for projects in the Middle East, South America and Asia Pacific.

“I am not promoting them here but if they are cheaper, why were they not considered by the government?

“Hence, on behalf of PKR, we want a stop-work order issued on the project and a parliamentary select committee formed to oversee details of the MRT.

“We want to make sure that the best proposal presented is the best one implemented,” she said.

The MRT system is an entry-point project identified for the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) and aims to increase public transport modal share from 18 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020.

With the 40 per cent public transport modal share, the government hopes that at least four million trips of the estimated total of 10 million are made via public transport.

The remaining six million trips will continue to be made via private vehicles.

The Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line, the first of three lines in the project, is estimated to have a daily ridership of 442,000 passengers in its opening year, expected to be in 2016.

The SBK alignment map is up for public viewing until May 14 at seven locations across the city.

They are Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Petaling Jaya City Council, Shah Alam City Council, Selayang Municipal Council, Kajang Municipal Council as well as the Bangsar LRT station and the SPAD office in Menara Dayabumi.

The public can provide their feedback on the project via email to or through the SPAD toll-free line at 1-800-82-6868

Friday, March 4, 2011

Singapore’s transit beats Malaysia

Singapore’s transit beats Malaysia (FMT)
By Patrick Lee

March 3, 2011

Although just as bad 40 years ago, Singapore's traffic congestion has eased considerably and is today a transit-friendly state.

PETALING JAYA: Singapore’s traffic congestion was just as bad as Kuala Lumpur’s 40 years ago. However, the city-state’s transit situation has vastly improved, leaving its neighbour far behind.

Clear-cut transport policies helped to transform the island nation into a transit-friendly state, according to Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit chairman, Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah.

“Singapore was in the same position as KL 40 years ago. When Singapore split from Malaysia, it was actually suffering from pretty bad congestion,” he said.

Zulkarnain added that land was reserved for transit purposes, especially around Singapore’s HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats.

“They were built around the HDB flats. After that, everything just fell into place.”

“During that time, ample land was available,” Zulkarnain said, adding that the Singaporean government planned ahead.

Not meant for people

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s town planning, he said, was more car-centric than people-oriented.

“There is a considerable increase in private car ownership in Malaysia. As Malaysians become more affluent, they turned to cars,” Zulkarnain said.

“Because of that, the government built more roads, but they didn’t think about improving bus service at the same time.”

“There was no coordination or supporting infrastructure,” he added.

It also did not help that Malaysia lacked a truly central public transport authority, unlike Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA).

FMT previously reported that Malaysia never drafted a public transport masterplan since its Independence.

“Even if we did have a plan, I’m not sure if it would have been followed through 100%,” Zulkarnain said.

Better bus services

Zulkarnain also found it strange that the government was putting Singapore’s MRT on a pedestal, when most of the island’s public transport rested on its buses.

According to Singapore transit operator SBS Transit, the average daily ridership for buses clocked in at 2,499,764 in January 2011. Rail, on the other hand, was at 479,488.

The island nation’s second operator SMRT saw about 1.767 million ridership for rail during the same period. SMRT’s bus ridership came up to more than 921,000.

In sharp contrast, RapidKL’s average bus ridership is only 290,000 a day.

MRT viability

Zulkarnain also questioned the viability of the upcoming RM36 billion Mass Rail Transit (MRT) mega-project.

“If SPAD (Land Public Transport Commission) wants the MRT to be a viable form of public transport, then it needs to look at how MRT stations are developed,” the transit expert said.

“If the government cannot figure out how to integrate transit planning and public transport, then how is it going to get people to be accustomed to public transport?” he asked.

Zulkarnain also asked why the government was so eager to go ahead with the MRT, especially when it failed with the KTM Komuter.

“If the government cannot succeed with KTM Komuter, what makes it think that it can succeed with the MRT?” he asked.

“Why not optimise the KTM or improve on its infrastructure?”

Although pushed by the government as a solution to end KL traffic congestion once and for all, the MRT has come under fire from both the opposition and transit experts alike.

The lack of public consultation and aggressive pushing, and hefty price tag are some of the criticisms the MRT has faced in recent months.

The first phase of the MRT is expected to be completed by 2016. In tandem with this, the government announced its aim to increase transit usage to 25% by 2012.

Less than 20% of the Klang Valley residents use public transport; lower than many Asian countries.

RM51 billion for under-used MRT

RM51 billion for under-used MRT? (FMT)
By Patrick Lee

March 3, 2011

The project may cost RM17 billion more than its original price tag of RM36 billion.

PETALING JAYA: The Mass Rail Transit (MRT) system may end up costing more than RM51 billion, going by a report prepared by Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg.

It may also see only half of its desired ridership of 40,000 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD).

In a press statement quoting from Flyvbjerg’s report, DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said today that the MRT project was a “disaster waiting to happen”.

According to Flyvbjerg, 58 rail-based mega-projects in 20 countries had an average cost overrun of 44.7%.

(The MRT’s initial estimated budget was RM36 billion.)

Flyvbjerg’s report says that promoters of massive transit projects tend to underestimate costs and overestimate benefits in order to secure much-needed funding.

Pua accused private companies such as Gamuda-MMC of spinning success stories only to have government agencies falling for them “hook, line and sinker”.

He said these companies were “rushing to ensure that the project gets funded and started in the shortest possible time, without proper independent checks, audit and competition”.

Flyvbjerg’s report, entitled “Survival of the unfittest: Why the worst infrastructure gets built and what we can do about it”, looks at 258 mega-projects, including 33 for bridges and tunnels, and 167 for roads.

It says 90% of mega-infrastructure projects are doomed to have cost overruns and that cost estimates do not improve over time.

“Cost overruns in the order of 50% in real terms are common for major infrastructure, and overruns above 100% are not uncommon,” says the report.

It adds that these problems would eventually result in waste of resources, delays, destabilised project management and much bigger problems than anticipated.

It also says that according to a study involving 25 rail-based mega-projects in 14 countries, the passenger traffic was 51.4% lower than originally forecast.

“This is equivalent to an average overestimate in rail passenger forecasts of no less than 105.6%.”

It notes that 84% of rail passenger forecasts have been wrong by more than 20%, and that nine out of 10 rail projects have overestimated traffic.

Malaysian’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has predicted that the MRT will serve up to 40,000 PPHPD.

However, the Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit (Transit) has rubbished this claim. It said that as the MRT would buy only 58 train sets, it would have a maximum capacity for only 24,000 PPHPD.

Transit chairman Muhammad Zulkarnain Hamzah told FMT recently that Bus Rapid Transit services had a potential of over 30,000 PPHPD at only a fraction of the MRT’s cost.

In his statement, Pua warned that the MRT project might end up like the STAR-LRT, Putra-LRT and KL Monorail projects, which are now absorbed into the public-owned Prasarana.

He noted that Prasarana, forced into taking over these companies, was now in debt to the tune of RM9 billion.

Pua questioned the “distinct lack” of public consultation over the country’s largest mega-project to date.

“Despite the fact that the project was only put up for feedback last month, SPAD and Prasarana (the project owner) have already awarded the project to a Gamuda-MMC joint venture as the ‘project delivery partner’,” he said.

He called the MRT initiative a “rush job”.

[KVMRT: It is sad to see the improper planning which will result more losses than gains. ]

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Getting the MRT to work

By A Question Of Business
BY P.Gunasegaram

Dec 25, 2010

Getting the MRT to work

More than 10 years after the LRT services were introduced, feeder services are woefully inadequate, what makes us think they will be efficient when the MRT is completed?

For the construction sector and some companies, Christmas time has well and truly begun with the firm and unequivocal decision by the Government to go ahead with the works for the estimated RM36bil mass rapid transit or MRT project for Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas.

That does not include the cost of rolling stock, or trains for us laymen and laywomen, and the cost of acquisition of land. Including that, the cost could well balloon to over RM50bil by some estimates, making it more expensive to build than the entire Putrajaya and the KL International Airport put together.

Putrajaya is widely reported to have cost RM20bil and the airport RM10bil at the time of completion more than 10 years ago. That makes a grand total of RM30bil. At RM50bil, the MRT costs two thirds more! That’s a stupendous amount of money, especially for a relatively small country like Malaysia.

It’s no longer relevant or useful to talk about whether the MRT is necessary because the decision is already made to go ahead with it. But there is a lot to be said about how to make it a truly effective one.

In our haste to push ahead with big projects, we often overlook many things. Planners think they know or have taken into account everything. But they seldom have. Already another consultant other than the original promoter has come up with a way to cut costs by combining parts of two lines.

Give it some time and for others to study the plan and there are likely to be more improvements. The plan should therefore be publicly tabled, and comments and suggestions invited. Based on that, the plan should be revised if necessary.

It is good that most of the parcels will be by open tender. That usually helps to keep costs low by ensuring that there are sufficient competing bids. However, it would have been better to do away with the Swiss challenge system for the original promoters of the MRT, MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd.

Under such a system, if there is a competing bid for the tunnelling works – at an estimated RM13bil-RM14bil for the largest portion of the works – the JV has the right to match a competing lower bid or to remove itself from the bidding process. That does not give a competitor the incentive to come up with a lower bid because he will not get if it is still competitive and viable.

It is better that the MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture be retained as the project delivery partner for the entire project and open tenders be had for all parcels of the project to demonstrate an unwavering adherence to keeping costs as low as possible.

It is good that the rest of the parcels will be by open tender and that there will be independent experts to ensure that quality and other standards are met. That is as things should be.

By the time the MRT is in operation, it will be several years down the line. It is imperative in the meantime that all measures continue to be taken to ease congestion in the city. Such measures have been far and few in between and many of them have been abject failures.

For instance, even more people will use the light rail transit (LRT) system if the feeder services are good enough. What’s the point if the LRT saves you half an hour when you have to wait for half an hour for the feeder bus to come and take you home?

That’s a very important lesson to carry forward into the MRT system. You can have the best and most expensive system in the world but unless you have the necessary reach and efficient feeder services, it is bound to be a failure.

When to this day, more than 10 years after the LRT services were introduced, feeder services are woefully inadequate, what makes us think that they will be efficient when the MRT is completed in stages over the next five to 10 years?

Let’s look at the other huge infrastructure project – the largest single one before the MRT. This is the RM16bil (which will probably balloon to over RM20bil) nationwide double-tracking project. Where are all the benefits that are supposed to accrue from that?

Let’s make sure the MRT does not suffer the same fate.

> Managing editor P Gunasegaram has nothing against big projects, provided they work.