LATEST NOTE: Since the MRT project is now part of the Economic Transformation Programme, we will continue to update information about the MRT project through our posting on the Economic Transformation Programme entitled ETP Analysis: The MRT Proposal.
- Updated with poll!
- Updated with additional drawings!
- Updated with articles!
This posting may be one of the longest that we have made in recent years, but we feel that it is necessary to get all stakeholders to sit down and look at public transport in an holistic manner.
As such, TRANSIT needs your feedback on these rail proposals – that means, detailed observations, comments, ideas, etc. We want to break our records in terms of the number of people who view and comment on this page.
Also, we want you to tell your friends, neighbours, and wakil rakyat to visit this page and give their comments as well.
A note from TRANSIT
Over the past few years, a number of proposals have appeared suggesting rail networks for the Klang Valley. Of these various proposals, 4 of them stand out, either because of the level of detail, quality of the proposal, or general audacity of those making the proposals.
In this post, TRANSIT will examine the 4 “main” rail network proposals for the Klang Valley, which come from:
- Fikir Runding (2007) – original / our drawing (NEW!)
- DBKL (2008) – original / our drawing (Coming Soon!)
- Prasarana (2009) – original / our drawing (NEW!)
- MMC-Gamuda (2010) – our drawing / The Star / Malaysian Insider
You can click on the links above to see various versions of the different proposals. The slideshow & gallery of our drawings (courtesy of @Bukhrin) compares the various proposals.
Our goal is to examine the proposals above in some detail, looking for similarities and differences. We will also look at the economic and financial justification (keeping in mind that there is very little information available) and examine everything through three lenses, namely:
- best practices in public transport investment
- best practices in transport-oriented development (TOD)
- cost-benefit analysis
Keep in mind that our resources are quite limited – but we believe that it is very important that the professional planners, engineers, and economists look at all of these proposals and come up with a real network solution.
Our intention with this post is to get the train rolling (as it were).
Details of the MMC-Gamuda Proposal
TRANSIT has been concerned with the recent announcement of an MRT network proposal for the Klang Valley, projected to cost between RM36-RM43 billion.
Our concerns are namely:
- That our existing public transport network is fragmented and that fixing the problems with existing service should be our priority;
- That the money invested should be spread out through the whole country;
- That there is no existing public transport service to act as a precedent to justify the cost of the MRT investment;
- That the last time we built rail services without having a public transport precedent, we ended up with 3 separate railway lines operated by 3 separate companies and built using 3 separate technologies;
- That all of the above railway lines had to be bailed out by the Federal Government;
- That the proposal (which comes courtesy of construction company MMC-Gamuda) was unsolicited and presented directly to the cabinet, rather than to any government agencies, workshops or think tanks or to the public;
- That the government has adopted the MRT proposal as part of the 10MP without consultation with other industry players, with SPAD or with the public;
- That the government has only now appointed consultants to conduct a feasibility study, after announcing the MRT proposal as part of the 10th Malaysia Plan, as can be seen from this article: 12 weeks to conduct MRT feasibility study (StarBiz);
- That the MMC-Gamuda proposal is the 4th proposal that we have seen for a public transport rail network (including Fikir Runding, DBKL, and Prasarana) and it seems that no one is examining the advantages and disadvantages of all proposals to come up with a final proposal
Knowing all of the above, you can imagine our skepticism and worry when we see reports of the proposal and letters from the unsuspecting public that suggest that the MRT is the solution to our public transport nightmare (as if the LRT worked so well). Examples of such comments & activities can be found at the following places:
- Gamuda hopeful KL MRT work can start next year (Malaysian Insider);
- MRT offers wider coverage (StarBiz)
We have similar concern over the other 3 proposals as well – as the reader can imagine, all of them have their advantages and disadvantages.
TRANSIT’s immediate goal is to present the details of each proposal, and examine the advantages and disadvantages.
In a future post, we will evaluate (as best we can) the proposals and give our recommendation for a future network.
The Key Details
Aside from the information that we have read in the media, TRANSIT notes that there are many “key details” of the MMC-Gamuda network proposal that we think are important and worth mentioning – and we will compare these details with the other 3 proposals.
A new perspective on “City Centre”
The proposal from MMC-Gamuda claims that the existing LRT lines do not serve the “City Centre” – which they have defined as the Golden Triangle, (KLCC, Bukit Bintang, Pudu, Pasarakyat) – and proposes that two of the new lines will interchange in this area.
[TRANSIT: The idea of serving the eastern side of KL, described as the “City Centre” in the proposal, is a good one, because it acknowledges that this area is high density and has a lot of potential for growth]
Both of the proposed MRT lines travel in a “northwest – southeast direction”, from Sg. Buloh to Cheras and Sg. Buloh to Serdang.
Similar corridors are also featured in the Fikir Runding proposal, DBKL proposal and Prasarana proposal. However, the MMC-Gamuda proposal has two lines, rather than one line.
[TRANSIT: Because of the consistent appearance of a northwest-southeast corridor in all of the plans above, we expect that at the very least, we will see the Kota Damansara – Cheras line (or a slight variation) built at some point within this decade. The most important thing is to identify the location of this line in the city centre and construct those segments, then move on to suburban extension.]
Multiple “Seamless” Interchanges
The proposal suggests that there is a need for additional interchanges between LRT and MRT stations in the Klang Valley and will plan the MRT lines to maximize the number of available interchanges.
The interchanges are also being described as “seamless” and designed in the same manner as interchanges in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kaohsiong.
Similar interchanges are proposed for the Fikir Runding, DBKL and Prasarana proposals, at different sites. For example, Prasarana proposes that KL Sentral stay as a main interchange, while the MMC-Gamuda and DBKL proposals seem to prefer Masjid Jamek.
[TRANSIT: Interchanges and network nodes are very important places in the network and having many interchanges will allow better flow of passenger movement throughout the network. In addition, the development potential for sites around interchanges is high – which can help to offset the cost of construction.
After having been exposed to the poorly designed interchanges in the existing rail network (particularly Kuala Lumpur-Pasar Seni and KL Sentral-KL Monorail) we do not think there would be objections to this.]
City Circle Line
The proposal includes a “City Circle Line” that will tie all of the LRT, MRT and monorail lines together. A similar line appears in the Fikir Runding proposal, while the DBKL proposal has multiple monorail lines that more or less surround the city centre and provide connections. There is no “circle line” proposed by Prasarana.
The main question about the city circle line would be its location – since the MRRI corridor – Jalan Tun Razak (formerly “Circular Road”) plus Lebuhraya Mahameru + Jalan Istana – could be used (it is included in the Fikir Runding proposal) but it is low density or already an engineering nightmare.
There is also a question of whether (or how) the line will serve communities surrounding the “city centre” namely older suburban areas like Bangsar, Sentul, Pudu and Ampang.
[TRANSIT: Having a “City Circle Line” is a nice idea but it is very unlikely that the line itself would be viable as a whole. Generally, circle lines tie together viable segments of radial lines and the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts.
A good example would be Singapore’s City Circle Line – which is only 3 carriages in length (similar to the Ampang LRT) rather than the 6-carriages of a traditional MRT.
We need a clear understanding of the projected capacity of this circle line – and frankly, it may be better to have a few monorail lines instead of the one circle line.]
The proposal from MMC-Gamuda has a great deal of underground construction proposed for the two main lines along the “northwest-southeast” corridors. Most of the City Centre line would be elevated (except the western stretch).
This contrasts interestingly with the DBKL proposal (which consists mostly of elevated monorail lines) and the Prasarana proposal (which will only be underground from Brickfields to Bukit Bintang). We have no details about the Fikir Runding proposal.
[TRANSIT: As you can imagine, the cost of underground construction is quite a bit higher than the cost of elevated construction – and with MRT trains being wider than LRT trains, the cost will surely be higher. There is also the issue of the land under KL – which has many open caverns and underground rivers. It will be challenging to find proper corridors for tunneling.]
Building a Rail-Based “Backbone” and Increased transport demand
Each of the proposals recommends a rail-based public transport network based on the idea that it is the most efficient solution for our public transport needs. Rail has the advantage of being isolated from regular traffic and can therefore avoid traffic congestion.
The Fikir Runding, Prasarana and MMC-Gamuda proposals argue that MRT construction is justified and will lead to a high increase in public transport demand. The DBKL proposal seems to prefer monorail lines, but the emphasis is still on a rail-based network to move more people.
[TRANSIT: The advantages of a rail-based network are numerous and we do not argue against them. Our concern is that the cost of the rail network means that fewer areas can be served with public transport and that these areas must be mature, high density area.
Unfortunately, the recent trends in Malaysia have seen more of the population shifting to low-density areas, propelled by affordable private transportation.
Because the usage of public transport is so low, there is a huge gap between the existing number of public transport users and the anticipated numbers that are said to justify the construction of monorail, MRT or LRT.]
Rail good, bus bad
All of the proposals above are rail-based, and they mostly argue that the existing bus system cannot meet future public transport demand.
While the proposals (with the exception of Fikir Runding) do have varying degrees of bus usage incorporated in the design, it is clear that rail is in great favour.
The MMC-Gamuda proposal goes ahead to say that the SPAD proposal for bus lanes and BRT is unworkable because of congestion (shown in photos) on the existing roads where these routes have been proposed.
The MMC-Gamuda proposal takes a highly “selective” (biased) approach by using a photo of the TransMilenio BRT system in Bogota that suggests that the system will simply lead to more traffic congestion.
[TRANSIT: Selection examination of the details and all the options is nothing new. We at TRANSIT do it, so does the government and the public.
The key issue is what is behind that selective examination of the details. TRANSIT has got years of research and is aware of the best practices in public transport – and most importantly, our only stake in this is to see the best possible public transport system in the Klang Valley.
Can DBKL, Prasarana, Fikir Runding and MMC-Gamuda say that they do not have a huge financial stake in the future rail network for the Klang Valley?
That is why these proposals should be examined publicly, in an open and transparent manner – so that the ideas, thoughts, feeling and biases become clear and what emerges is the best possible choice.
It is also why we really prefer it that proposals do not come to the government from companies that have a direct interest in the proposal. ]
The MMC-Gamuda proposal states that KL should have more MRT lines simply because other cities in Asia have more kilometres of MRT lines and we would not want the Klang Valley (or by extension, Malaysia) to be left out.
A similar argument is given in the other proposals – that having a longer, more complete network of rail-lines will give the Klang Valley significant economic advantages and improve quality of life.
[TRANSIT: Frankly, we do not buy arguments that compare “size” and “length” because the Klang Valley has a very different density pattern and public transport usage pattern as compared to many other cities in Asia.]
TRANSIT needs your feedback on the above proposals – evaluating the advantages and disadvantages – and suggestions on what network would be best for the needs of the Klang Valley.
Thank you in advance for your feedback!