• Najib must explain the lack of increase in ridership on the rail system in the Klang Valley despite billions spent on the LRT extension, the MRT and the KTM Komuter Double Tracking projects

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 5th of October 2017

    Najib must explain the lack of increase in ridership on the rail system in the Klang Valley despite billions spent on the LRT extension, the MRT and the KTM Komuter Double Tracking projects

    There are some who wants to present the title of ‘Father of Public Transportation Modernization’ to Prime Minister Najib Razak because of the billions of RM poured into the one and only BRT line in Sunway, LRT extension, the new MRT line and the KTM Komuter Klang Valley Double Tracking (KVDT) upgrade.[1] But the reality is that despite the billions of RM poured into these large public transportation rail projects, the overall ridership for the LRT, the monorail and the KTM Komuter has not increased significantly over the past 2 years. As the figures below will show, Najib’s administration should be ashamed that they have spent so much money on these projects with so little benefit to the rakyat.

    Source: Ministry of Transportation[2]

    Figure 1 above shows the average daily ridership figures for the Kelana Jaya LRT line, the Ampang LRT line, the KL Monorail and the KTM Komuter on a quarterly basis from Q1 2014 to Q2 2017. According to these figures, which are provided by the Ministry of Transportation, the daily ridership of the Kelana Jaya LRT line, the Ampang LRT line, the KTM Komuter and the KL Monorail in Q2 2017 are less than the daily ridership figures for Q2 2015, just before the launch of the Sunway BRT. For example, the daily ridership of the popular Kelana Jaya LRT was 228,763 in Q2 2015 but had dropped to 217,383 in Q2 2017 despite the opening of the Sunway BRT in 2015, the LRT extension in 2016 and Phase 1 of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT line in 2017.

    The RM634 million Sunway BRT was launched in June 2015[3]. The daily ridership figures were 11,295 and 12,372 in June and July 2015 respectively when the service was free. The ridership figure then plunged to 4,616 in August 2015 when fares were introduced which cost, on average, RM1 per km for a 5.4km BRT route.[4] The high fares charged were even critiqued by the Sunway chairman, Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah.[5]

    The RM8 billion LRT Extension was launched on the 30th of June 2016 (end of Q2 2016) and it connects the Kelana Jaya and the Ampang LRT lines.[6] While the opening of the LRT extension seems to have boosted the daily ridership figure for the Kelana Jaya line from 210,739 in Q2 2016 to 220,714 in Q3 2016, the daily ridership figure for the Ampang line actually dropped from 166,984 in Q2 2016 to 159,213 in Q3 2016.

    The opening of Phase 1 of the MRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh to Semantan also did not increase the traffic for the KTM Komuter which connects to the MRT Line 1 in Sungai Buloh. In fact, the KTM Komuter daily ridership of 106,337 in Q3 2016 (before the opening of Phase 1 of the MRT Line 1) was higher than the daily ridership of 104,978 in Q2 2017 (approximately 6 months after the opening of Phase 1 of the MRT line).

    As for the KL Monorail, its daily ridership has experienced a steady decline from a high of 71,623 in Q4 2014 to a low of 48,202 in Q2 2017.

    Figure 2 above shows the daily ridership of the KLIA Transit, the KLIA Express and Phase 1 of the MRT-SBK Line 1 which was opened in December 2016.

    For the KLIA Transit, the daily ridership of 17,419 in Q2 2017 is far lower than the 20,129 daily ridership in Q4 2014. As for the KLIA Express, the daily ridership of 6,071 in Q2 2017 is also lower than the daily ridership peak of 9,847 in Q3 2015. The daily ridership of MRT Line 1 dropped from 16,368 in Q1 2017 to 12,622 in Q2 2017 once the novelty of taking the MRT wore off and the free one-month trial period was over.

    What explains the decrease in overall ridership despite the opening of the Sunway BRT, the LRT extension and the MRT Line 1?

    One of the main explanations is that the cost of taking these trains is not necessarily cheaper than driving. For example, as this letter writer in the Star shared, it costs him RM9 for a trip from Puchong to Sunway via the Sunway BRT or RM18 for a return trip. Throw in the parking at the LRT station (RM4) and fuel costs, this writer estimated that it would cost him RM25 per day to take the LRT compared to RM10 to drive (including toll costs and free parking at his office).[7]

    Daily ridership on both LRT lines, the monorail and the KTM Komuter dropped significantly from Q4 2015 to Q1 2016 because of a significant fare hike for the LRT as well as the KTM Komuter. Daily ridership figures have yet to recover from this steep fare hike despite the subsequent opening of the LRT extension in the middle of 2016.

    When the Q3 2017 daily ridership figures are released later this year, I expect there to be a significant increase in the passenger numbers for the LRT and MRT because of the half price ‘offer’ during the SEA games leading up to Merdeka on the 31st of August 2017 and also the opening of the full MRT Line 1 from Sungai Buloh all the way to Kajang. We should take these ridership figures with a pinch of salt. A more realistic gauge of daily ridership would be the Q4 2017 figures when the half price discounts have been taken away and the people can more accurately estimate to see if it is worthwhile for them to take public rail transportation instead of using their own vehicles. As we have seen in the examples above, ridership figures decrease significantly once the ‘free’ or ‘discount’ period is over.

    The other reasons why the public are reluctant to use public rail transportation have to do with timing and reliability. For example, it takes someone approximately 30 minutes to drive from Puchong to Sunway but it would take about an hour for the same trip using the LRT and the BRT. Issues of reliability continue to plague the KTM Komuter despite the RM1.4 billion allocated for the Klang Valley Double Track (KVDT) upgrade project. Derailment and delays decreases the reliability of the KTM Komuter which also discourages potential passengers from abandoning their cars in favour of rail transportation.[8]

    It is all fine and good when the Prime Minister together with his cabinet ministers and other VIPs take the BRT, the LRT and the MRT when they are first launched with great fanfare and publicity. But after the VIPs are gone and after the ‘free’ or ‘discounted’ fare periods have expired, we do not see passengers voting with their feet by switching to public rail transportation. To really be a ‘game changer’, PM Najib must make public rail transportation affordable (for example, by introducing a monthly train and bus pass for let’s say, RM100), reliable (avoid delays and disruptions) and accessible (solving the last mile connectivity problem). PM Najib only deserves the title of ‘Father of Public Transportation Modernization’ if and only if these issues are resolved. After all, spending money on these projects is the easy part. Getting people to take the trains and buses is another story altogether.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mp-najib-is-father-of-public-transport-modernisation#cYma94wm6QXVy4ZW.97

    [2] http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic

    [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRT_Sunway_Line

    [4] http://penanginstitute.org/v3/files/research_papers/Penang-Institute-Sunway-BRT-Writeup-JonathanFong-OKM-Feb2016vFinal.pdf

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2016/04/29/steep-fares-keep-passengers-away-lukewarm-response-to-brt-service-even-during-peak-hours/

    [6] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/06/30/new-lrt-line-from-putra-heights-begins-today/

    [7] http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2016/08/23/why-the-lrt-isnt-worth-the-switch/

    [8] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/08/22/dap-wants-transport-minister-to-answer-for-frequent-ktm-delays/

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