KUALA LUMPUR: Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming, in making unflattering comparisons with Singapore, cautioned that public transportation in Malaysia was more expensive for a number of reasons.
“An MRT ride from the Pasir Ris MRT station in the east to the Pioneer MRT station in the west, for example, costs approximately SG2,” he said in a statement. “An LRT ride from Gombak station (KJ1) to Putra Heights (KJ37), in comparison, costs RM6.10.”
He wants to know, on a dollar for dollar basis, why the ride in Malaysia costs three times more compared with that in Singapore.
The MP attributed the reason to five factors:
1) Prasarana, wholly owned by the Finance Ministry, was unprofitable and has accumulated massive losses over time;
2) it has very high financing costs because of its high debts;
3) it has relatively low non-fare revenue;
4) SPAD has done a very poor job of fare regulation in Malaysia; and
5) The Malaysian Government does not want to directly fund public transportation infrastructure.
“We have a long way to go before we can achieve Singapore’s affordable public transport pricing,” said Ong. “One key to getting there is to know where we are now.”
Firstly, he warned, if there are no improvements in the manner in which the LRT and Rapid buses are financed and regulated, “we should expect more increases in fare charges in the near future”.
Secondly, he said, the government needs to examine the business relationship between MRT Co, the owner of the new Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) MRT Line 1, and the operator of the line, which will be Prasarana, to see its impact on the profitability of Prasarana as well as of MRT Co.
MRT is not directly bearing the costs of constructing the SBK line.
A separate special purpose vehicle (SPV) called Dana Infra has been issuing government backed bonds to pay for construction costs.
MRT recently signed a 10-year lease agreement with Rapid Rail, a Prasarana subsidiary, for it to run the operations of the first MRT line. All fares will go to Rapid Rail while MRT will receive revenue from advertising and rental.
“If Prasarana performs well, the MRT contract can help reduce its losses and perhaps reduce pressure to increase fares,” noted Ong.