Mahathir blamed for transport mess

Ajit JohlPETALING JAYA: Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to focus on private instead of public transport is coming back to haunt Malaysians, says the Public Transport Users Association (4PAM).

Speaking to FMT on the state of public transport in the country, 4PAM President Ajit Johl recalled that the government started to focus on private transport 33 years ago with the inception of Proton and the construction of tolled highways.

Five years later, Singapore began ramping up its public transport network with its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.

“Look where we are now and the mess we have created,” Ajit said. “Our traffic jams are so bad that many are dependent on tolled roads. And our cars are so expensive.

“But look at Singapore. We cannot help but feel envious of its public transport system.”

Ajit noted that Singapore’s MRT system, besides covering a wide area, also has good supporting systems, such as proper feeder bus and train services, accessibility of stations, cashless payment methods and shaded, well-lit and safe walkways.

He pointed out that neighbourhood malls are incorporated in a number of MRT stations, ensuring that people generally don’t have to travel far to shop or watch a movie.

In comparison, he said, Malaysia’s public transport system was largely still in a shambles.

However, he noted recent improvements, such as the entry into the system of ride-sharing services and the expansion and upgrades of LRT and KTM services.

He said there was still a lot of room for improvement, especially in regulations, for which the Land Public Transport Commission is responsible.

Ajit voiced hope that the government would continue improving public transport and keep it affordable so that people would be encouraged to use it.

The government’s target in its planning is to have 40 per cent of commuters using public transport by 2030.