By T.K. Tamby
Commuters in the Klang Valley, who are all too familiar with traffic jams, erratic bus service and overpriced taxi rides, have long yearned for an efficient transport system that will help them get around easily.
Now our collective hopes are pinned on the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) project which burst onto the transport scene in 2011 with the declaration: “We will change your life”.
While still dogged by issues of costs and land acquisition, the MRT brings with it the possibility of an integrated transportation system, which will provide a seamless commute as widely hoped.
Project owner and builder, the Government-owned MRT Corp Sdn Bhd is pushing for the much desired integration.
In a briefing during the PEMANDU-Analysts visit to the MRT project site in mid-February, its strategic communications and public relations director Amir Mahmood Razak (pic) said the company is hoping for integration with existing rail services like the light rail transit (LRT), monorail, KTM Komuter and the KLIA Express through improved interchange points and an integrated automatic fare collection system.
He also noted the need for an efficient feeder service and covered walkways that will allow for an effective end-to-end connection.
However, the task of ensuring integration does not lie with MRT Corp but with its eventual operator, Syarikat Prasarana Sdn Bhd, a Government-owned company which has been mandated to transform the country’s public transport system.
Transforming GKV into one of the world’s top liveable metropolis
The KVMRT is part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley (GKV) initiatives under the Economic Transformation Programme that are targeted to contribute RM190 billion in gross national income (GNI) over the next 10 years and create over 300,000 jobs.
The KVMRT project is one of the Entry Point Projects (EPP) aimed at transforming the Greater Klang Valley into the world’s top 20 most liveable metropolis by 2020. Spanning 141km, the KVMRT’s three lines are expected to serve areas within a radius of 20km from city centre.
The first line, the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) Line, which will begin from Sungai Buloh through the city centre and ending in Kajang, will be fully operational from July 2017.
The 51km line will comprise an underground line of 9.5km and a total of 31 stations, of which seven will be underground. It is expected to serve an estimated population of 1.2 million. Each train serving the line will have four coaches with a total capacity of 1,200 passengers. It is expected to ferry approximately 400,000 passengers daily. The trains are expected to run at an interval of 3.5 minutes.
“The SBK Line will be completed in two phases. The first, from Sungai Buloh to Semantan, is scheduled to be up and running by the end of 2016, while phase two from Semantan and Kajang (will start running) from July 2017,” said Amir. “So far, everything is on track.”
Changing the perception of public transport
However, the viability of the integrated transport system is very much dependent on the volume of commuters, said Amir, noting the dire need to push for volume by changing the common perception of the public transport system.
Currently, the modal share for public transport is only 20% and according to Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), only 5% of Klang Valley commuters use public transport during peak periods. SPAD is looking at a 40% modal share for public transport by 2030.
The decline in the use of public transport slipped to 19.7% in 1997 from 34.3% in 1985, a shift largely attributed to growing affluence as well as the deficiencies in the system that were left unrectified until recently, according to SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.
Car ownership, on the other hand, rose steadily at an average of 4% a year. According to the Malaysian Automotive Association, 576,567 passenger vehicles were registered last year, an increase of 4.4% from the year before.
“Convincing Malaysians to give up their cars for public transport is not going to be easy especially when they have for years witnessed how terribly inconvenient the public transport system has been,” noted a transport analyst for a local research house.
However, he said this perception will eventually change when commuters see how convenient the new integrated system is in providing mobility and connectivity. “The greater challenge here is to ensure integration and an efficient end-to-end connection. Once this is established, the rest will take care of itself, including public perception.”
Amir said the company has taken numerous steps to ensure a safe and pleasant journey for commuters. “We have looked at physical integration with buildings through tunnels and covered walkways. An example is Low Yat Plaza.
“Our stations are designed to give commuters an aesthetically pleasing experience and a convenient and safe journey while providing functional efficiency.
“Certain stations will be equipped with multi-storey car parks, providing more than 8,000 parking bays.”
While the elevated stations are built in the traditional wakaf style with good ventilation and natural lighting, the design for the underground stations is inspired by the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge and features multicultural themes.
Catalyst for economic growth
Accessibility has always been touted as the cornerstone for economic growth. KVMRT will boost pockets of local economy by creating new business hot spots. This accessibility is also expected to boost the value of properties, especially those located near its stations.
The KVMRT project not only benefits the construction industry but also has positive spillover effects on other sectors of the economy such as finance, logistics, manufacturing and professional services.