From Dr Ling TK
With the country’s vaccination rate picking up, the reopening of more economic sectors will inevitably result in more people moving about.
Public transport may not be as packed as it was before the pandemic but this is only temporary. Because of this, we should not waste time and must carry out much-needed improvements and maintenance to our transport system.
Many things can be done to ensure Malaysia’s public transport not only can facilitate social distancing, while Covid-19 is still with us, but also make it greener and more accessible to the public.
This, naturally, should start with the rail system.
As a public transport user, I would argue that the government should not only focus on building newer LRT and MRT connecting lines, but also ensure that frequent and best-in-class maintenance is carried out on crucial infrastructure to ensure passengers are safe and comfortable.
I believe that the top guns at Prasarana or even MRT Corp do not commute daily, unless for public relations opportunities.
They might not be aware that repair or maintenance is needed for broken lifts, leaking stations, and noise pollution due to friction along the lines, especially in the Petaling Jaya area.
I wonder if we ever lubricate our tracks with top-of-the-line rail lubrication systems as used in certain countries to minimise noise pollution.
They should also look into the signalling and other technical issues that have been plaguing the MRT and LRT systems of late.
At the same time, our nation is constantly distraught with repeated incidents of collapsed scaffolding, including those at rail system construction sites, that have injured or even killed local and foreign workers over the years.
Four incidents have been recorded this year alone. How many more lives must be sacrificed in this manner?
Nonetheless, KTMB did a very good job with the ETS service that connects Padang Besar to the southern states of Malaysia. The train service has been very convenient to the public, especially in avoiding the balik kampung traffic along the PLUS Expressway.
Unfortunately, the previous government decided to terminate the proposed Singapore-KL high-speed rail. Had it been spared, travel to the Lion City would have been made much more convenient.
I also hope the new government will look into bus services, especially those in the Klang Valley. Although 80% of the residents in the Klang Valley own a car or motorcycle, buses still remain relevant, particularly for the elderly, young adults as well as foreign workers.
The Rapid buses should be punctual and have proper times allocated to them so that their schedule fits in with that of MRT feeder buses. I do hope the top officials at Prasarana look into this matter.
At the same time, it is disappointing that the works ministry and the local authorities did not use the opportunity to repair potholes on the roads during the movement control order. They had a golden opportunity to do so with fewer cars on the road during the lockdown. The return of traffic will delay the repair work.
Meanwhile, we should not forget our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak. Better transportation across the board is very much needed over there.
Thailand launched a new suburban rail line, called “The Red Line”, in early August this year. The Thais also plan to build a high-speed rail link, running from Bangkok to Pattaya. This could eventually be connected to other provinces, including the south. The project will go on despite the country grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
That is why we need to reconsider our high-speed rail agenda, especially on the domestic front, so we would be able to connect to other parts of Asean via rail line. This is a safer, faster and cleaner option for travel.
The government must be open to this option and act fast on this so we are not left out of the potential upside of greater Asean connectivity. If government funding is a potential issue given the need for it to focus on national economic recovery, probably funding models which involve a stronger public and private partnership should be considered.
This was shared by finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz during his recent interview with Singapore’s The Straits Times. This infrastructure financing model would be good for projects of this scale, which is critical to jump- start the flagging economy.
A good, integrated transport system is crucial for Malaysia’s recovery. This is our chance to secure the future and we should not squander it.
Dr Ling TK is a public transport advocate and an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.