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500km of ‘MRT’ in Iskandar, Johor? Not in our lifetime (Update #1)

Update: SPAD CEO Mohd Nor Kamal has responded to the announcement by saying that SPAD has not seen any proposal yet!

TRANSIT took note of a very interesting announcement from down south, where the Chief Executive of the Iskandar Regional Development Authority appeared to announce a 500km MRT project for the region.

Now before any jaws drop down to the floor, stop and think for a minute. MRT is a term that means “mass-rapid transit” meaning, a “rapid transit” service (or combination of “rapid transit” services) that moves a large number (a “mass”) of people.

In other words, in this case “MRT network” could actually mean “Mass(ive) Rapid Transit network” and still be a semi-appropriate use of the term.

And this isn’t the first “strange” use of public transport terminology – TRANSIT commented in July 2010 about the use of “Vast Rapid Transit” to describe the proposed rapid transit network

MRT proposed for Iskandar Malaysia (Star Biz, 13 April 2011)

KUALA LUMPUR: A plan to build a 500km mass rapid transit (MRT) system has been proposed to improve the connectivity within Iskandar Malaysia, according to Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) chief executive Ismail Ibrahim.

“The MRT project will be developed in five or six phases. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020. The announcement will be made by the Prime Minister if the proposal is accepted,” he said at the Invest Malaysia 2011 yesterday.

[TRANSIT: Remember how planning works in Malaysia – you develop a “vision” and “announce you intention” but you never actually have to build anything. The Chief Minister of Melaka is the expert in this.]

He said IRDA planned to build a bus rapid transit (BRT) first and expanded to MRT after that. However, it is still in the planning stage.

“The proposed BRT is about 400km with various phases. The first phase will be about 40km. Connectivity must be established within Iskandar as well as how Iskandar is connected with the outline region, including our neighbour,” he said.

[TRANSIT: ok, so if we look at the core of the plan, it is actually sound – a 400km rapid transit network that may, (emphasis, may) be expanded to MRT in the future.]

On whether Singapore would extend its MRT to Johor Bahru, Ismail said: “There is actually no discussion with regard to extending the MRT from Singapore to Johor but there has been discussion about wanting to look at connectivity between Johor Baru and Singapore by use of rail, which could be an MRT system. It might so happen to be the same system or it might be a dedicated system.”

[TRANSIT: oooo-kaaay, how do we explain the statement above???? It is vastly more confusing than the concept of “Vast Rapid Transit”. Basically, Ismail is saying that they haven’t specifically discussed an MRT link between Singapore and Malaysia yet (despite what has been said in the papers).

What is sounds like to us is: nationalists in Singapore do not like the idea of a KTM Komuter type service entering Singapore and nationalists in Malaysia do not like the idea of the MRT entering Malaysia.

Either way, if they do not figure things out we could end up with neither connection, (rather than both connections, which would be especially nice).]

IRDA is the regulatory authority mandated to plan, promote and facilitate the development of Iskandar Malaysia into a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing.

Ismail said Iskandar Malaysia was targeted to attract investments of RM13bil annually into the region, with a target of RM73bil in the next five years following the completion of key infrastructure education and tourism projects by 2012.

He said Iskandar Malaysia had recorded a total investment of RM69.4bil as at December last year and the total had grown to RM73bil as at the first quarter of this year.

“Iskandar Malaysia has moved into Phase 2 of Iskandar Malaysia Comprehensive Development Plan (2006-2025) with the completion and deliveries of major infrastructure and iconic investment projects, recording RM28bil at end of 2010,” he said.

Meanwhile, Iskandar Investment Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said the launch of Iskandar Investment’s pioneering catalytic developments beginning 2011 would accelerate the inflow of investment in projects and human capital development into Iskandar Malaysia.

“This will contribute not only to Malaysia’s expected growth of 5% to 6% in real gross domestic product in 2011, but also support our nation’s aspirations of becoming a high income nation by 2020,” he said in a statement.


So there we are – vast, rapid confusion of the public through interesting announcements that talk about a future that is really way beyond the current planning horizon.

Normally people accuse the government of not planning for the long term – but as you can see from these comments, they don’t like it when the government plans waaay too far ahead.

All these announcement and headlines about MRT should serve as a warning – most people who talk about public transport know very little about it. They have their opinions and their ideas but they have not spent the time doing the research to make sure that they understand public transport through and through.

But rest assured, TRANSIT is not “most people” – we talk the talk and ride the ride – in other words, TRANSIT knows our stuff.

So, will there be 500km of MRT network in Iskandar Malaysia? Well, as we said, not in our lifetime. Not before the 100th Anniversary of Malayan independence (2057) or the 100th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia (2063).

Will there be 500 km of Rapid Transit network in Iskandar Malaysia? The answer is, probably – if you include the BRT and Komuter Selatan rail network and bus lanes too.

When will it happen? Well, if people stick to the plan we should start seeing changes over the next 2-5 years. So let’s be positive, stop paying attention to the announcements and just the headlines and start paying attention to what is actually being said and what is actually being done.

Update: In a statement, SPAD CEO Mohd Nor Kamal stated that the regulator has not received any proposal for an MRT system in the Iskandar Region.

No proposal yet for Iskandar MRT, says SPAD (Malaysian Insider)

By Lee Wei Lian
April 13, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) has not seen any proposal pertaining to the new Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system currently being proposed for Iskandar Malaysia, its chief executive Muhd Nur Kamal [said].

This comes as the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) said yesterday that it is considering a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system for the special economic zone in south Johor to help mobility in the region.

Muhd Nur said, however, that SPAD would do the necessary due diligence on any transit proposal if directed by the government.

“As the regulator of railways, Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) will study any railway scheme proposal if directed by the
 Government,” Muhd Nur told The Malaysian Insider via e-mail when contacted.

The Malaysian Insider article mentions that the Iskandar Regional Development Authority is at the stage of considering an MRT system and SPAD has not received any proposal for such a system to date.

IRDA chief executive Ismail Ibrahim said in a press conference yesterday that the MRT proposal is pending approval from the Members of [the] Authority who will be meeting in May.

If the proposal is accepted, it will be developed in six phases with the first phase completed by 2020.

Ismail added that IRDA was also considering putting a Bus Rapid Transit system in place in addition to the MRT.

The IRDA chief also said that the authority was looking to see how an MRT in south Johor could integrate with Singapore’s own mass transit system.


Let’s wait and see what happens down in Johor.

9 replies on “500km of ‘MRT’ in Iskandar, Johor? Not in our lifetime (Update #1)”

Not a typo – but we’re also not sure why “MRT” was used since the plan is clearly for BRT to start – and by “to start” we mean “for at least the next 10 years if not more.”

Regards, Moaz for TRANSIT

I think this will only happens in JB after maglev has become cheap and norm in the world. God knows when. We are not going to see it in our lifetime that’s for sure!!

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