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‘Solutions’ to public transport problems focusing on the bus industry, not public transport users

By now everyone should be aware that a major crisis is taking place in the bus industry.

The shut down of CityLiner bus services throughout was the major ‘tipping pint’ in a series of crises [TRANSIT: refer to our “No Bus for You” series of posts] that showed the precarious state of public transport and the bus industry – and made it clear that SPAD has lost the plot by focusing on the MRT project rather than revamping & transforming public transport.

The nation-wide collapse of bus services are continuing, despite the recent announcement that the Malaysian Government has approved an RM400mn fund for public transport operators. Applications for this fund began earlier this week and SPAD intends to release the first Rm100mn as soon as possible.

TRANSIT notes that the government is stepping in with the financial aid to bus operators. We also note that Prasarana-RapidKL have talked about improving cooperation (actually, we should say “starting” cooperation) with private bus operators to reduce wasteful competition on different routes. At the same time, taxi drivers and other bus companies are benefiting from the lack of competition in the Klang area since CityLiner shut down bus services, affecting thousands of public transport users.

However, we need the government, SPAD and Prasarana-RapidKL to acknowledge that their “solutions” are not holistic and not sustainable. The problem is that they are focusing on short-term solutions for the crisis, not long-term solutions that will make public transport work, sustainably and effectively, and most importantly, meet the needs of public transport users.

And this, ladies & gentlemen, is the biggest problem. Everyone talks about fixing public transport but all the solutions that are put forward focus on the bus industry, rather than the public transport service. What’s worse is that the ‘solutions’ still fail to consider the needs of the public transport users.

Read about TRANSIT’s take on the issues and a proposed action plan after the jump!

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KTM Update: Another restructuring for KTMB promises to accomplish what earlier restructuring(s) did not

TRANSIT took note of this article which describes plans for another corporate restructuring at KTMB.

It is sad that the Malayan Railway has still not managed to figure out whether it is supposed to be a government agency, corporate entity, or something in between.

TRANSIT remembers earlier corporate restructurings that have happened for KTMB. Well, at least they were started but then they got stalled either because of a lack of government support, an unclear vision, or resistance from workers (among other reasons).

The corporatization of KTM began nearly 2 decades ago but it was never finished. A lack of government funding and deferred maintenance since the corporatization has helped bring KTMB to its knees.

Recently one President of KTMB started an RM1 campaign, promising to take KTMB back to profitability. That campaign died aborning, when the president was quickly replaced (it might have had something to do with his “hybrid” trains).

The most recent KTMB President has talked about restructuring KTMB into a holding company, with various railway service subsidiaries (freight, Komuter, ETS, power systems, maintenance, terminal management, etc). and selling track warrants to other companies interested in providing railway services. He believes that this model will be successful because it has worked in Europe – despite the fact that it has not worked in many European countries and that Malaysia lacks the density that makes railway travel profitable.

We wonder what this latest restructuring will bring for KTMB but we wish to share one important point – KTMB needs to have a clear vision of the kind of transport service provider that it needs to be over the next 10-20 years.

Without that clear vision, this latest restructuring will be as effective as the last ones.

Railway revamp (Star Biz)

Thursday October 27, 2011

PETALING JAYA: KTM Bhd (KTMB) will undergo a two-year corporate restructuring programme to turn around the ailing national rail operator and a consultant will be hired to manage this, according to the Treasury, in its reply to the Auditor-General’s (A-G) report.

The A-G’s report had stated that KTMB posted a loss of RM92.6mil in 2009 compared with RM84.6mil loss in the previous year.

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Interesting FMT interview with SPAD chair Syed Hamid Albar (Update #1)

Updated with comments from TRANSIT!

TRANSIT has taken note of a series of articles in Free Malaysia Today, detailing an interview with SPAD Chair Syed Hamid Albar.

TRANSIT will reserve our comments until the entire series is posted. In the meantime you can find links to the articles (3 at the time of this posting) after the jump:

Update: TRANSIT had reserved our comments and then got so busy we didn’t have time to make these comments. But we are ready now!

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MRT Update: 2 new companies to handle MRT project instead of Prasarana

TRANSIT has taken note that the Ministry of Finance has created two new companies to handle the MRT project, taking it away from Prasarana in an interesting about turn.

MRT Co. is the government company responsible for the management of the entire MRT project including planning & costing, while Dana Infra will be responsible for raising funds to finance the entire MRT project.

MRT Co. will also be the asset owner for the MRT project. It is not known what will happen to the assets once the MRT project is totally completed.

The other government related stakeholders in the project are:

  • Prasarana (The National Infrastructure Company/Group), which will be responsible for integrating the assets of the MRT with the LRT, Monorail & Bus system – but will not own the assets of the MRT (the infrastructure (pillars, guideways, tunnels, tracks, signalling system, power system, depots, workshops and stations) & rolling stock (trains) – at least for now;
  • RapidKL, Prasarana’s subsidiary company, which is responsible for public transport operations in the Klang Valley, and;
  • SPAD, the Land Public Transport Commission, which the regulator for land-based public transport in Peninsular Malaysia.

Finally, MMC-Gamuda will still be the Project Delivery Partner for the MRT project, and responsible for making sure that the entire project is delivered on time, at or below cost projections (which of course are not firmed up yet).

Confused? Don’t be … it’s all perfectly clear if you are familiar with the financing & planning schemes behind mega-capital projects.

See interesting images plus commentary from TRANSIT after the jump!

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KTM Update: Railwaymen’s Union to strike at the ‘heart’ of Malaysia?

Any way you look at it, the recent protest by the Railwaymen’s Union appears to be a game changer in Malaysian politics and certainly within the public transport industry.

Not only has the RUM protested publicly & directly against KTMB President Dr. Aminuddin, the Chief of RUM (Abdul Razak Md. Hassan) has clearly threatened that he will encourage his members to vote strategically in any upcoming election.

This voting talk is clearly a political “shot across the bow” against the Prime Minister, the Barisan Nasional, and UMNO (Abdul Razak is an UMNO member so this becomes intriguing).

The thing that makes the issue even hotter would be the blatant warnings given at the recent protest held on 29 July 2011 – a protest which (to our observation) was not really covered by the mainstream media – in which Abdul Razak threatened a Railway worker’s strike during the Balik Kampung period, which would have a detrimental affect on Hari Raya travel … a clearly upsetting situation especially since tickets to the East Coast for the Balik Kampung period have already sold out.

And since this year Hari Raya Aidilfitri may take place on 31 August 2011, a railway worker’s strike during the Balik Kampung / Aidilfitri period would also affect celebrations of Merdeka Day.

But why?

Get out! RUM tells KTMB boss
Patrick Lee | July 30, 2011

Union threatens disruption of train services for Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations if Aminuddin Adnan does not resign immediately.

KUALA LUMPUR: Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) employees want their president, Aminuddin Adnan, to step down immediately or face a drastic backlash.

“Malaysia’s trains may come to a screeching halt during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations if [Dr. Aminuddin] does not quit,” said Abdul Razak Md Hassan, chief of the Railwaymen’s Union of Malaya (RUM).

“We want the government to end the president of KTMB’s contract or we will take drastic action!” he told hundreds of KTMB employees in front of the company’s KL headquarters.

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KTM Update: Is the Railwaymen’s Union becoming ‘political’?

Is the Railwaymen’s Union becoming political?

That is the question that was running through the minds of TRANSIT members when we learnt that the KTM Railwaymen’s Union had written a letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak to protest the reappointment of Dr. Aminuddin Adnan as president of KTMB for a second 2 year term.

Now, we already know that the RMU is not happy with Dr. Aminuddin. They have expressed their concern about the setting up of ETS Sdn. Bhd. as a subsidiary of KTMB, rather than a division like Komuter, Freight and Intercity. The group also expressed their concerns over a possible plan to hand KTMB HQ over to the private sector for development. There have been at least two protests by the RMU over issues and a new one is being planned.

But now, the RMU has taken their concerns into the political arena, warning Prime Minister Najib that they will encourage their membership to not vote for BN in any upcoming election if these issues are not resolved.

We’ll derail BN, railwaymen warn Najib (Free Malaysia Today)
28 July 2011

Patrick Lee

The letter, penned by the KTM employees’ union secretary, who is also an Umno man, pans the Najib administration’s tagline as well.

PETALING JAYA: In a letter to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the Railwaymen Union of Malaya (RUM) warned him of protest votes against the Barisan Nasional in the next polls.

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Putrajaya overrules Prasarana for a third time. (Update #2)

  • Update: At least one wakil rakyat has chosen to speak up so we decided to change the title of our post. Guess who it is? No point, as you already know that it is Tony Pua (since no other wakil rakyat really appear to follow these finance issues, let alone speak up)!
  • Update: According to this article, the contract has actually been awarded to Colas, instead of the Bombardier-Hartasuma-SNC Lavalin consortium. However, the issues of transparency still stand. See the updated post below!

‘He that pays the piper calls (chooses) the tune’

That phrase is a simple explanation of who has authority in life … it’s often those with the money. TRANSIT takes note that the Finance Ministry (the one “paying the piper”) has ‘called the tune’ for a third time, (overruling a tender-evaluation decision made by Prasarana and awarding contracts to ‘unsuccessful’ companies).

The first time this was done was the selection of the ‘Independent’ Check Engineer for the MRT project. The second time was when the government overruled Prasarana’s pre-qualifications criteria (described as “biased” by Malay-rights group Perkasa).

Now the government has overruled Prasarana’s decision on the Kelana Jaya LRT extension, and [TRANSIT: we should have added “apparently” here] awarded the contract to a consortium of Bombardier, Hartasuma and SNC Lavalin – a decision that will increase the cost of the LRT extension, put an additional burden on Malaysian taxpayers for generations to come, and allow foreign companies and their local partners to profit handily on the backs of the Malaysian public.

Putrajaya overrules Prasarana, takes pricier LRT extension deal (Malaysian Insider, 17 June 2011)
By Jahabar Sadiq

A source said Hartasuma-Bombardier’s bid of RM890 million is almost 50 per cent higher than that of the lowest bid — frohsz de pic.

KUALA LUMPUR June 17 — A Finance Ministry committee has ignored the city’s light rail transit LRT operator’s recommendation for the Kelana Jaya line extension project by awarding it to a company whose project price of RM890 million is almost 50 per cent higher than that of the lowest bid.

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MRT Update: Perkasa claims MMC-Gamuda is blocking Bumi companies for MRT project (Update #1)

Update: Prasarana MD Shahril Mokhtar has denied the allegation! from Perkasa!

TRANSIT took note of this very surprising (but not wholly unexpected) statement from Perkasa, a Malay-rights organization headed by MP Ibrahim Ali, claiming that MMC-Gamuda was blocking Bumi companies in the MRT project.

This is in response to complaints mentioned in the Malaysian media recently that some contractors felt “left out” by the scale of the project.

Of course it is one thing to have a massively scaled project that is beyond the reach of some companies – but the allegations of ‘blocking’ constitute a different set of issues – issues that we wish were handled properly.

Is this a systematic ‘blocking’ as alleged by Perkasa, or just good business practices by Prasarana? Or something else entirely? We will have to wait and see the response

But hey, this is an update related to the MRT project – so it might as well be discussed here on Malaysia’s Public Transport Forum.

MMC-Gamuda blocking Bumi companies in MRT project, says Perkasa (The Malaysian Insider)
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
April 21, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — There’s an “evil” attempt by MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd to deny Bumiputera contractors opportunities in the Klang Valley mass rapid transit (MRT) project, several Malay groups allege.

Perkasa, along with NGOs of Bumiputera entrepreneurs, today accused the project delivery partner (PDP) for the MRT project of enforcing “strict” conditions which disallowed Bumiputera participation and only benefitted “rich Non-bumis.”

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MRT Update: First contract running into controversy?

TRANSIT took note of this article today which states that the first contract for the Klang Valley MRT project (for the Independent Check Engineer) has been approved by the Finance Ministry, overruling an earlier rejection by Prasarana.

MRT’s first contract runs into controversy (The Malaysian Insider)
Thu, Apr 14, 2011

By Jahabar Sadiq

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — The owners of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) will award their first major contract today for an independent check engineer (ICE) chosen by the government and who will be paid two per cent of the undetermined project cost, which is reportedly above market rates.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the consortium of HSS Integrated Sdn Bhd, Hong Kong’s MTR Corp Ltd and Canadian SNC-Lavalin is likely to land the contract despite being rejected by Syarikat Prasarana Berhad (SPNB) earlier for not putting a price to its brief — which usually costs up to 0.8 per cent of the total project.

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MRT Update: No property value capture plan means even the Sarawakians will pay for KL’s MRT

TRANSIT is hearing disturbing news from the Malaysian Insider. It is nothing new. The plain, same o same o story.

The. MRT. Has. Been. Conceived. Without. A. Plan. Period.

SPAD: MRT financing, project manager’s fees not finalised yet (The Malaysian Insider)
By Jahabar Sadiq
April 08, 2011

Nur Kamal said actual work on the MRT will start in November. — file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Putrajaya has yet to finalise the financing and project manager’s fees for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) although planning has started for initial civil engineering works to begin in November, said the regulator.