By SHARIDAN M. ALI
A SOUND and well-planned rail network inclusive of the upcoming Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT) Line 2 will form the spinal cord of Kuala Lumpur’s public transportation system that will not only improve the liveability of the Greater Kuala Lumpur (KL) dwellers, but more importantly support the sustainability of the city’s future development.
In recent years, the country’s economy as well as construction industry have been largely buoyed by the massive multi-billion investment to improve the capital’s public transport network.
Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd is now in the midst of developing its RM7bil light rail transit (LRT) extension and MRT Co is currently overseeing the construction of the RM23bil KVMRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh to Kajang.
Currently, the market is anticipating the approval of the KVMRT Line 2 that spans from Sungai Buloh to Putrajaya with an estimated cost of RM25bil.
Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive officer Mohd Nur Kamal confirms that the feasibility studies for KVMRT Line 2 is completed and is awaiting Cabinet approval.
According to the the National Land Public Transport Masterplan (final draft), the KVMRT Line 2 or the North-South Line is meant to link developing areas such as Sungai Buloh, Kepong and Selayang with the eastern side of the city centre including Kampung Baru and Tun Razak Exchange.
The third line or the circle line should provide an orbital link between areas such as Mid Valley, Mont Kiara, Sentul Timur, Ampang as well as the planned Matrade.
The KVMRT project, consisting of three lines, is expected to have a total network of 145 km.
By the time the KVMRT Line 1 is completed in 2017, it is expected to carry some 384,000 passengers daily.
A MRT rail system would require some 20,000 passengers per hour per direction to be feasible.
The Greater KL Land Public Transport Master Plan sets out an integrated 20-year plan to transform land public transport in the region responding to local needs and aspirations.
While this investment does give a shot in the arm for the country’s economy in the short term in view of a sluggish global environment, it is interesting to look further into the future at what these rail networks really means tothe Greater KL development. Ideally, Malaysia has the aspiration to be ranked in the top-20 city economic growth while being among the global top-20 most liveable cities by 2020 via nine entry point projects (EPP) which include improvement in land public transport services and networks.
And most of these pertinent issues are highlighted in the country’s first land public transport blueprint.
In the masterplan, Greater KL was identified as the critical economic growth centre as over 37% of the nation’s gross national product is identified as being related to Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
The region comprises Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Klang, Kajang, Subang Jaya, Selayang, Shah Alam, Ampang Jaya and Sepang.
The 2010 census identified a regional population of 6.3 million in Greater KL that reflects an additional 1.7 million people living in the region compared to 2000.
The largest growth has been to the south and west of Kuala Lumpur in districts such as Sepang, Petaling Jaya and Putrajaya.
“The KVMRT project involves the construction of a railway network which will form the backbone of the Klang Valley’s public transport system.
“The project is a crucial component of the Greater KL National Key Economic Area and is the largest infrastructure project in the country.
“It will significantly improve the coverage of rail-based public transport in the Klang Valley and enable 50% of all trips in the Klang Valley to be done on public transport by 2020, up from the current 17%,” said the masterplan.
While this is a positive aspiration, alarmingly, the masterplan identifies that in recent decades the mode share of land public transport in the morning peak has fallen from 34% in the 1980s to 10%-12% in 2008.
“This share is relatively low compared to other international cities such as Hong Kong at 90%, Singapore at 63%, and London at 55%.
“This reduction in land public transport usage reflects the increase of the highway network supply, changes in household characteristics, the affordability of cars and poor quality of public transport,” it said.
On its economic benefits, the masterplan describes historical data in Malaysia and around the world indicating a correlation between GDP and mobility growth – increased population, employment and economic activity always translate into higher mobility requirements.
“In this context, a first-class land public transport system is especially important given our immediate aims as outlined in the Economic Transformation Programme’s 6% annual growth and 3.3 million new jobs by 2020.
“Travel vehicle demand grew from 13 million trips per day in 1991 to 40 million in 2010. Projections point towards this trend as continuing in Malaysia, with the figure expected to reach a staggering 133 million in 2030,” it said.
The masterplan adds that with urbanisation expected to reach 7% by 2020, there is a need to enable an efficient and smooth flow of people, which in turn also enables growth of new urban areas through increased connectivity.
“Beyond satisfying a growing demand, land public transport plays a catalytic role in accelerating and shaping economic growth. Provision of effective public transport services has the potential of opening up new growth clusters, enhancing the attractiveness of existing clusters and driving urban revitalisation.
“And there are other positive spill-over effects of increased economic activity built upon an advanced land public transport network – it yields employment and business opportunities in local economies by having synergies with other industries like advertisement, retail and property development,” says the masterplan.