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SPAD CEO answers “Your 10 Questions” in Star Biz

TRANSIT took note of the recent “Your 10 Questions” interview of SPAD CEO Mohd Nor Ismal Kamal, in Star Biz.

As you might expect, most of the questions were about the MRT plan, including the planning process. There were also a few questions asked about SPAD itself and its plans to improve public transport.

Your 10 Questions for Mohd Nur Ismal Mohamed Kamal (Star Biz)

Saturday March 12, 2011

SPAD CEO Mohd Nor Ismal Mohamed Kamal during the 'Your 10 Questions' interview. Image courtesy of The Star.

Why is the Land Public Transport Commission not following the original route that was approved under the Greater KL Plan, which was displayed in Putrajaya? Y.S. Yee, TTDI KL

Several alignments were proposed for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang corridor, underscoring the severe need for an urban rail system to serve the areas along the line. All alignments suggested earlier, however, are proposals which are subject to feasibility studies prior to implementation. The current Sungai Buloh-Kajang alignment was proposed by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd in 2006. [TRANSIT: Do note that there are important differences in the proposal from 2006, the evolution of that proposal, and the Sg. Buloh – Kajang line proposed today] Feasibility studies and engagement with local authorities have been carried out by Prasarana since then to determine the optimum alignment. [TRANSIT: If we ask the local authorities, what will they say?] Final approval of the alignment will only be given by the Government after the three-month public display period which ends on May 14, 2011 and after feedback from the public have been given due consideration.

The MRT will be running very close to my house. How far must the house be away from the line before the commission (SPAD) will acquire my property? What are my rights and options? I am genuinely concerned. Yeong, TTDI, KL

The law stipulates that the alignment must be at least 6m away from the boundary of a piece of property. Land acquisition is governed by the Land Acquisition Act 1960 and the agency handling it is the Department of the Director-General of Land and Mines. SPAD does not have authority over land matters.

[TRANSIT: A 51-year old law that has not been updated to consider Malaysia’s urban growth in the past 5 decades – and we thought the Railways Act 1991 was out of date.]

The current notices placed in public places along the mass rapid transit (MRT) corridor is governed by Sect 4 of the Act. The Act states that the land administrator of that particular state must put up notices as close to the land as possible to inform the public that the general land area within a 60m corridor has been gazetted for possible land acquisition. It does not mean that all the land will be acquired.

It is only after May 14 when the public display period ends and after all feedback has been received and consultations undertaken with various bodies that the actual plots to be acquired will be ascertained. At that stage, under Sect 8 of the Act, individual owners of the plots to be acquired will be notified directly. The land administrator will hold hearings for the owners. Adequate time will be given for affected landowners to search for alternative properties. Compensation for any land acquired will be determined by the Valuation Department and will be set at market prices.

SPAD, in evaluating the proposed MRT alignment, will ensure that as little land as possible will be acquired for the project.

Since we already have the light rail transit (LRT), why are we not extending this LRT into new areas? Why must we build the MRT which cost so much more? Michael, Balakong

The Government is extending the LRT line for the Kelana Jaya Line, from Kelana Jaya to Putra Heights and for the Ampang Line, from Sri Petaling to Putra Heights over a total of 35km. The existing KTM Komuter system was also extended from Sentul to Batu Caves, a distance of 7km.

Nevertheless, the number of places where extensions of the LRT lines can serve will be limited and any further extension of the current LRT lines will end up making journey times very long and unattractive to commuters. In terms of capacity, the LRT will quickly reach its maximum limit while the MRT, which generally has 50% more capacity, will be able to comfortably satisfy the transportation needs of the Klang Valley for many years into the future.

The Klang Valley needs to increase its urban rail coverage. The Klang Valley now has low rail-based public transport coverage compared with most public-transport oriented cities. It has less than 20km of rail per million population, compared to public transport oriented cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and London which have an average of 40km of rail per million population. This gap can be closed via the development of an MRT network. The rail network which includes the MRT, LRT, KTM Komuter and Monorail will form the backbone of the public transport network in the Klang Valley. [TRANSIT: One might want to consider what a ‘backbone’ is really for – to facilitate and support a healthy nervous system. Without the healthy ‘nervous system’ the rail ‘backbone’ is just a support structure.]

How is SPAD going to improve the feeder buses? Will there be more buses with a regular time table? As far as I know, the current lot of feeder buses are irregular, never on time and never around when one is needed. Kumar, KL

The Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line will take five years to complete. While feeder bus routes for the line have been proposed and are currently on display to the public, SPAD will nevertheless conduct a thorough study on the demand and routing of such services. This will be completed ahead of the completion of the line and the feeder bus network will be ready when operation begins.

Why is the MRT serving the high-class areas of TTDI, the Curve, Bandar Utama and Subang USJ? They don’t need the MRT. Ganesan, PJ

It is not a question of serving high-class areas or not. In fact, the locations named in the question cannot be lumped together as being “high-class areas”. The Curve is a popular shopping centre, making it a major activity point and destination for many people, thus justifying the need for public transport. Bandar Utama and Subang USJ are huge residential areas which can also do with good public transport services while the proposed Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT alignment which runs along the periphery of TTDI will also serve densely-populated areas on the other side of the alignment, such as Damansara Kim, Damansara Utama and other neighbouring housing areas.

[TRANSIT: One might suppose that the definition of “serve” is being stretched here in the eyes of many among the Malaysian public.]

It is hoped that once an efficient, reliable, user-friendly, affordable and safe public transport service in the form of the MRT is made available, car owners may be convinced to leave their vehicles at home or at stations and ride the train into the city or to wherever their destinations may be.

[TRANSIT: Based on the complaints about lack of park & ride facilities and the issues raised by AWER, this areas needs more thought]

Who and how is the route of the MRT decided? What are the criteria? Chandran, KL

Many factors come into play when an MRT alignment is determined. The overarching principle is benchmarked against the following:

1. Regional level where fixed points are identified where the line must serve. These are determined by factors such as serving areas where there is no rail service at the moment, serving densely-populated areas, serving activity centres such as the central business districts, shopping centres or office blocks, and serving areas where there is potential future growth.

[TRANSIT: Here you see the assumption that the network must be rail-based]

2. Engineering, social and environmental factors such as constructability, ridership, land acquisition, social and environmental impact, journey times and integration with existing systems

3. Micro level where local details are taken into consideration via public feedback

What is your advice on leadership practices to the youth, the future leaders of Malaysia? Polly Tan, KL

Aspire to change the world. Along the way, lead by example, practise what you preach and always be guided by honesty and accountability in your actions.

Because the MRT costs so much, can SPAD hold more public forums before embarking on it? I understand work is expected to start by the middle of the year. Gurmit, PJ

SPAD is taking all the necessary steps to reach out to the public. SPAD organised an open day for the public on Feb 13 and this was immediately followed by public displays of the railway scheme and plans at seven locations. This will be on until May 14. During this period, SPAD will also be organising sessions with the various communities along the proposed alignment to provide information about the project and to gather feedback.

[TRANSIT: According to this article, representatives from SPAD, Prasarana and MMC-Gamuda apparently pulled out of a public meeting in Kajang scheduled for 14 March 2011 – not exactly a good start.]

Members of the public can also visit the Klang Valley MRT project website at or call the helpline at 1800 88 2828 for more information. Feedback can be emailed to

What is the role and functions of SPAD other than building the MRT? Does it have the power to reorganise and restructure what we today call our public transport or lack of it? Matthew, Cheras

Firstly, let me clarify a misconception. SPAD is not the party building the MRT. That role is carried out by Prasarana. SPAD is the supervising agency for the MRT project where it is to ensure the system being developed will serve the people’s needs and interests.

SPAD was set up on June 3, 2010 by the Government to ensure the creation of a safe, reliable, responsive, accessible, planned, integrated, affordable and sustainable land public transport system to enhance economic growth and quality of life.

Prior to the setting up of SPAD, there were at least 15 agencies involved in the public transport sector. This led to some overlapping and inconsistencies in policies. With the setting up of SPAD, the powers to draw up policies, plan, regulate and enforce laws, rules and regulations concerning land public transport came under one roof. This enables the commission to become the sole government agency to champion public transport. For more details, go to

Who is going to pay for the entire MRT project, and if it is the Government, how do you think they will get that money? Jahabar, Seremban.

The Klang Valley MRT project will be fully funded by the Government. A special-purpose vehicle under the Finance Ministry will be set up to advise, manage and raise the funds for the project through a mixture of financial instruments as well as direct funding from the budget.

Because tax-payers’ money is being used to fund the project, there is a great emphasis on exploring all possible options to lower the cost. One interesting mechanism being used is the value management study (VMS) where an independent party is scrutinising project plans and ensuring that the optimum value is derived. The VMS will also help with the early identification of non-fare box revenue. Non-fare box revenue is important as about one third of the revenue of Hong Kong’s mass transit rail system is not from ticket sales while in Tokyo, the non-fare revenue is as high as 80%.

[TRANSIT: One way to lower the cost is to build a system that is more suitable for realistic projections for increased demand for public transport. Unfortunately, SPAD and Pemandu have not provided the public with any statistics showing that that projected demand levels in 2016, 2021, 2031, etc are well above the threshold (approximately 20,000 passengers per hour per direction) needed to justify an MRT!]


There you have it ‘Your 10 Questions’ – probably chosen out of hundred more. The responses from CEO Nor Ismal Kamal show that overall, SPAD is on the ball. On a macro level they provide some reasons why we need MRT. Too bad these reasons are based on vague ideas of ‘regional comparisons’ and economic competitiveness’ rather than realistic, local numbers that justify the need for an MRT network.

Nor Ismal Kamal also borrows the ‘backbone’ analogy to describe the role of the rail system. TRANSIT wishes to point out that, as important as the rail ‘backbone’ is, the government has clearly not paid much attention to the health of the public transport ‘nervous system’ that it is designed to support.

Now, we could come up with a creative list of ‘nerve ailments’ that are striking our unhealthy public transport ‘nervous system’ but that is probably carrying the analogy a little bit too far (even though it does work).

Most importantly, Nor Ismal Kamal has made it clear that the government will be fully-funding the Klang Valley MRT project with taxpayers money. At least, that is what we hope he said. And if so, that puts to rest a lot of deliberate statements made by others designed to suggest that the project would be private-financed or that MMC-Gamuda would be bearing the costs.

Thank you, Nor Ismal Kamal for telling us that important piece of information

One reply on “SPAD CEO answers “Your 10 Questions” in Star Biz”

I only have two things to tell SPAD. You are HOPELESS and you are heading to become another USELESS CVLB/LPKP.

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