• Datin Seri Rosmah should save taxpayers’ money and go to Singapore to learn how to get more Malaysians into Oxbridge rather than travel to the United Kingdom

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 16th of August, 2017[1]

    Datin Seri Rosmah should save taxpayers’ money and go to Singapore to learn how to get more Malaysians into Oxbridge rather than travel to the United Kingdom

    Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Prime Minister, received much criticism for a trip she took to the United Kingdom earlier this month. In response, Rosmah said that her trip to the UK, including a visit to the University of Oxford, was not for a holiday but to ‘pave the way for children under the PERMATA early childhood education program to join the university’.[2] If PERMATA is under budget constraints, as claimed by Rosmah[3], I suggest that instead of visiting the United Kingdom, she can take a trip across the border to Singapore to learn how the top institutions there help their high achieving students to get into Oxbridge.

    The latest statistics show that there are currently 290 Singaporean students at the University of Oxford as compared to only 145 Malaysians. At the University of Cambridge, there are currently 351 Singaporean students compared to 239 Malaysians. (See Table 1 below)

    Table 1: Number of Singaporean and Malaysian students at the University of Cambridge and Oxford (Undergraduates and Postgraduates)[4]

    Oxford Cambridge 2016/17
    Singaporeans 290 351
    Malaysians 145 239

    Sources: https://www.ox.ac.uk/about/international-oxford/oxfords-global-links/asia-south-east/asia-south-east-country-statistics?wssl=1#content-item–6 (Oxford), http://www.prao.admin.cam.ac.uk/data-analysis-planning/student-numbers/snapshot-nationalitydomicile (Cambridge)

    Singapore sends 9 times more students to Oxbridge[5] than Malaysia on a per capita basis. Given Singapore’s success in sending so many more students to Oxbridge than Malaysia, it would make sense for Rosmah to visit Singapore to learn more about the ‘secrets’ of their success. She would just need to visit the top 5 ‘A’ level institutions in Singapore – Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institution, Victoria Junior College, Temasek Junior College and National Junior College – which are responsible for sending most of Singaporean students to Oxbridge (as well as a number of Malaysians). If she did, she would find the following:

    1) High academic achievements across the board

    In most schools, only a handful of students, perhaps the top 5%, would get 4As for their STPM. Those with 4.0 CGPAs are even rarer. In a top A level college like Raffles Institution, the percentage of students in a cohort with the equivalent of 4As was 53% for the class of 2016[6] (629 out of 1162 students). Basically, if you were to throw a stone into a crowd of students in this school, you would have a more than 50% chance of hitting someone who scored 4As.

    Having a larger number of academic high achievers means that you have a larger pool of students who can potentially apply to places like Oxford and Cambridge. While we can discuss whether or not academic results are the best reflection of intellectual potential, there is no escaping from the need to have good academic results to gain entry into Oxbridge. Offers from Oxbridge are usually given to students contingent on them obtaining a certain academic result. Most entry offers are contingent of students obtaining 3As or 4As for their A levels (or the equivalent).

    The question which Rosmah has to answer, as the patron of PERMATA, is how many of its pre-university students obtain straight As for the A level exams (or its equivalent)? What does PERMATA need to do in order to reach similar academic standards as the top pre-university institutions in Singapore?

    2) Exposure to Various Intellectual Challenges

    Students in these top A level institutions in Singapore are given opportunities to expand their intellectual horizons beyond their normal academic syllabus. Students who show greater aptitude in certain subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography and Informatics, are given the training and the opportunity to compete for selection into the Singapore team for Olympiad competitions at the international level. The Olympiad infrastructure which exists at the school[7] and national[8] levels has allowed Singapore to improve its performance in these international student competitions over time. For example, Singapore has placed in the Top 10 in the International Math Olympiad since 2011.[9] Many of the students who participate in these Olympiads will go on to gain entry into top universities around the world, including Oxbridge.

    The exposure to various intellectual opportunities goes beyond training and participating in Olympiad competitions, which are only open to a relatively small number of students. Students who show interest in other fields, including the arts, public policy, scientific research and information technology have access to specialist programs in these fields.[10]

    In addition, students who want to gain exposure to university standard courses can opt to take H3 level papers for their A-levels (This is an addition to their ‘normal’ A level papers which are called H2 level papers). Students who take H3 level papers are better prepared to ask more insightful and critical questions in their field of studies which would also help them when writing essays and answering questions during interviews for Oxbridge entry.

    This is perhaps one of the intentions of Permata Pintar’s Nobelist Mindset program which is a program to give Malaysian students a sense of what it takes to have the mindset of a Nobel Prize winner.[11] But from the following description of the Nobelist Mindset program, we have a long way to go in terms of producing graduates who can write proper sentences in English, let alone Nobel Prize winners:

    “This workshop was held for 5 days at the PERMATApintar Center. Students are divided into 12 groups and will be taught by two instructors in the classroom. Students will learn and be exposed sciences to become a scientist and features a prize winner. The workshop was also attended by the students of the boarding school from the outside (SBP, BPT, SKK and so on. The highlight is the selection of students and Young Scientist who managed to qualify for Londo trip. The trip to London was to provide an opportunity for participants to visit special laboratories relating Nobel there.”

    3) Having well-trained Academic Councillors

    Gaining admissions into a top overseas university is not as simple as merely getting good academic results. It requires well-written application essays which can make you stand out from the crowd. It requires good reference letters from credible sources. It requires extra preparation for Oxbridge courses which require subject exams. It requires knowing what questions to anticipate and how to converse with professors from Oxbridge during interviews. Most of the top A level institutions in Singapore have well-trained academic councillors whose full-time jobs are to help students prepare their applications to these top universities.[12] This is one of the reasons cited as to why Raffles came out top in terms of number of students accepted into Cambridge.[13]

    As far as I know, PERMATA Pintar does not have any full-time academic councilors to help guide students on their higher education options. The closest item I found was a research mentoring program whereby a student can be mentored by a UKM academic in an area of his or her interest.[14]

    4) Having well-qualified and well-trained teachers

    Many of the teachers in these top institutions are Ministry of Education teaching scholarship holders. This means that they were sponsored by the Ministry of Education to study overseas before coming back to Singapore to teach. Some of them have studied in top overseas universities including Oxbridge. There are also expatriate teachers in these top A level institutions with experience in teaching in some of the top secondary schools overseas including schools in the UK which send a high number of students to Oxbridge.

    Does PERMATA have a similar cohort of teaching staff who can create the right academic environment for the geniuses who are studying at PERMATA? Do the staff have the right experiences which can help these students to not just do well academically but create a mindset among the students which can enable them to apply to some of the top universities overseas including Oxbridge? The evidence does not seem to confirm this.

    The onus is on PERMATA to create a high achieving environment for its high IQ students. The environment at PERMATA should be one where high performers are created across the board. The last thing we would want is for places at Oxbridge to be ‘bought’ in exchange for visits and special donations to Oxford or Cambridge by Malaysian dignitaries such as Rosmah.

    Rosmah does not have to take a contingent of 30 or more people to the United Kingdom to help future generations of PERMATA students gain entry into Oxbridge. She should just go across the border to Singapore with a few of the PERMATA top management and teachers. If she wants to save even more money, she should visit some of the top A level colleges in Malaysia which routinely send many students to Oxbridge including KYUEM, Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ), Methodist College, Taylors College and INTEC Education College in Shah Alam.  Then she wouldn’t have to ask her husband, Prime Minister Najib for more funding for PERMATA.

    Ultimately, regardless of the number of overseas trips which Rosmah takes, on behalf of PERMATA, I’m not sure if she will learn a much more basic lesson – which is that programs for ‘gifted’ students such as PERMATA cannot be the launchpad to promote one individual’s agenda or to make one person look good but must be built on strong institutional foundations in order to make the program sustainable and successful.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    [1] Disclosure: Dr. Ong Kian Ming did his ‘O’ levels in Raffles Institution and his ‘A’ levels in what was then Raffles Junior College under the Asean scholarship

    [2] https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/391057

    [3] https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/391059

    [4] These figures may underestimate the number of Oxbridge entries the Singapore education system is responsible for since some of the Malaysians who go to Oxbridge also studied in Singapore.

    [5] Abbreviation for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge

    [6] https://rafflespress.com/2017/02/24/a-level-results-2017-rafflesian-excellence/

    [7] https://rafflesmatholympiad.wordpress.com/programme/

    [8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Mathematical_Olympiad,

    [9] https://www.imo-official.org/results.aspx

    [10] http://www.ri.edu.sg/#Page/RafflesProgram-36/

    [11] http://www.programpermata.my/en/pintar/nobelist

    [12] http://www.ri.edu.sg/#Page/Student-45/ for Raffles Institution; http://www.hci.edu.sg/advantage/future-after-hci/tertiary-education for Hwa Chong Institution; https://sites.google.com/a/vjc.sg/the-vjc-scholarships-guide/scholarship-programme-at-vjc for Victoria Junior College.

    [13] https://www.crimsoneducation.org/au/blog/cambridge-acceptance-rates-schools

    [14] http://www.programpermata.my/resources/download/RESEARCH-MENTORING-PROGRAM-2013.pdf

  • Pakatan Harapan (PH) offers a fairer deal to KTMB and its workers

    Media Statement by Pakatan Harapan on the 9th of August, 2017

    Pakatan Harapan (PH) offers a fairer deal to KTMB and its workers

    The Railway Network Access Agreement (RNAA) is an agreement between KTMB and the Railway Assets Corporation (RAC) which will see KTMB transferring all of its rolling stocks and lands to RAC. This exercise is supposed to be completed sometime in 2018.[1]

    Pakatan Harapan is opposed to the RNAA for the following reasons:

    (i)               This is a back door way for the government to provide access to crony companies to use the rail network to undermine KTMB’s core businesses including the freight and haulage business that comprises 42% of its revenue (RM216 out of RM516 million in Financial Year 2015).

    (ii)              This will increase the costs of operations for KTMB because RAC will charge KTMB for the use of the rolling stock.

    (iii)            RAC, with only 38 employees, is in no position to properly manage its assets including the maintenance of the rolling stock and the track. It is likely that these responsibilities would be sub-contracted out to other crony companies.

    KTMB has suffered accumulated losses of RM855 million from 2009 to 2015 because of low ticket prices and expensive procurement contracts. For example, KTMB wasted RM85 million on a contract for an Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) ticketing system that could not be implemented.[2] More recently, the then President of KTM, Datuk Sarbini Tijan, was asked to go on leave pending an internal inquiry on procurement deals worth millions of ringgit.[3]

    RAC has also not been profitable. It has accumulated losses of RM372 million from 2009 to 2015. RAC does not have enough staff to properly manage the RM36 billion in assets including land. Its mismanagement of train maintenance contract payments was reported in the Auditor General’s report in 2013.[4]

    Pakatan Harapan promises a fairer deal to KTMB and its 6000 workers including:

    1)     Cancelling the RNAA between RAC and KTMB

    2)     Transferring the assets in RAC to KTMB as a way to maximize the value of these assets. The small size of RAC prevents it from increasing its revenue from ventures such as transit oriented development and advertising and retail. These assets should be transferred to KTMB and KTMB should be allowed to expand its expertise in these areas. This will be the way forward to KTMB to regain its profitability and also to minimize the need to increase ticket prices.

    3)     Review the cost and suitability of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project. The assets under ECRL i.e. the rolling stock, the track, the land and the stations, will not be owned by RAC or KTM. Instead, it will be owned by a newly established 100% Ministry of Finance Owned Entity, Malaysia Rail Line (MRL) Sdn Bhd. It has been reported that the ECRL service will be run by another operator which has not been named.[5] Not only is the cost of the ECRL extraordinarily high, it is very likely its operations will be awarded via direct negotiation.

    4)     Implement open tenders for all procurements of assets and services by KTMB

    5)     Not to privatise KTMB

    With these policies, we can chart the path towards financial profitability for KTMB, guarantee continued low prices for the passengers and ensure employment security and welfare for thousands of railway workers.

    Tan Sri Muhyidddin Yassin, President of BERSATU
    Liew Chin Tong, MP for Kluang
    Dato’ Abdullah Sani bin Abdul Hamid, MP for Kuala Langat
    Dr. Hatta Ramli, MP for Kuala Krai

    [1] http://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/transport-ministry-says-agreement-will-not-cost-4000-job-losses-ktmb

    [2] http://tonypua.blogspot.my/2011/01/ktmb-rm85m-contract-to-company-without.html andhttp://ongkianming.com/2015/08/22/press-statement-prime-minister-najib-should-look-at-the-failure-of-the-automatic-fare-collection-afc-system-rather-than-asking-for-new-ktm-ticket-counters-to-be-added/

    [3] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/01/11/rail-controversy/

    [4] http://english.astroawani.com/business-news/highlights-auditor-generals-report-2013-series-2-37880

    [5] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/03/29/east-coast-rail-kicks-off/

  • The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to do more to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of August, 2017

    The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to do more to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia

    The Challenge Putrajaya Half Marathon 2017 was initially scheduled to be on the 17th of April, 2017. The original poster promoting this event said that this event was supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) and also Perbadanan Putrajaya. The race has been postponed to the 1st of October 2017. The race organizers later admitted that they did not have the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Perbadanan Putrajaya. It is uncertain whether the runners affected by this cancellation have received the promised refunds.[1]

    In 2015, the HRDF Half Marathon was cancelled.[2] Some runners have yet to receive their refunds – and this is a run organized by a government agency!

    It is experiences such as these that prompted me to conduct a survey among the running community. The “Malaysian Runners Survey” was conducted using google docs.[3] 473 unique responses were collected over 2 weeks (from the 17th to the 30th of July, 2017). 331 of the respondents were male (70%) while 143 were female (30%). 354 respondents were over 30 years of age (74.8%), 114 respondents from 18 to 30 years of age (24.1%) and 5 were below 18 years of age (1.1%). Almost all of the respondents were Malaysia (457 out of 473 or 96.6%). Most of the respondents (374 out of 473 or 79.1%) had never won any cash prizes in a race.

    Among the questions asked was one which tried to gauge the level of support for a special body to be set up by the government to monitor athletic events, especially races. 36.8% of respondents strongly supported and another 36.8% supports this proposal. The fact that a large majority (77.6%) of respondents supported or strongly supported this proposal shows that there is current dissatisfaction among the running community over the races which are being organized. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better event organizers who will not ‘run away with the money’ or cancel races without any notice or reason given. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better organized races with proper Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so that the quality of races can be maintained at a high level. Some respondents also want this body to ensure that the entry fee for races remain affordable. This proposal was recently made by a runner, Juani Abu Bakar, and subsequently reported in some news outlets.[4]

    When I was given the opportunity in the special chamber in parliament yesterday to bring up the proposal of a sport monitoring body, especially for races / runs in Malaysia, I was given a very cookie cutter reply by the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk M. Saravanan. The reply referred to Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997 (Act 576) which refers to the use of recognized international rules and guidelines for competitions organized by a sports body.

    It also refers to Section 36 of the same act which states that a company who is involved in any sporting activity, as may be prescribed by the Minister in the regulations, must apply for a license to operate by the Commissioner of Sports.

    This reply ignores the reality on the ground. Firstly, nearly all of the races in Malaysia are NOT organized by an official sports body such as the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) or one of its affiliates at the state levels. Hence, these race organizers do not have to follow the guidelines as stipulated under Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997.

    Secondly, it is not common practice for race organizers or companies to register themselves with the Sports Commissioner. Even if there are race organizers who register with the Sports Commissioner, it is unclear if there are steps currently taken to ensure that the quality of these races is of a sufficiently high standard or that refunds must be given back to runners if a race is cancelled or postponed.

    If the Minister is really serious about improving the quality of races and protecting the well-being of runners, he should establish a working group with relevant stakeholders (sponsors, race organizers, event organizers, experienced runners from running groups) to lay out the necessary guidelines and procedures which can then be implemented under the Sports Development Act 1997.

    The other findings from the Malaysian Runners’ Survey include the following:

    (i)                  A majority of respondents feel that the it is increasingly difficult to find runs which are both affordable and well-organized, in the entry price range of RM50 and below.

    (ii)                A majority of respondents feel that non-Malaysians should be allowed to participate in races in Malaysia and that they should be allowed to win prizes but with the condition that there is a separate category for non-Malaysians.

    (iii)              A majority of Malaysians agree with bib-switching but with the caveat that the race organizers must be informed.

    I have passed a copy of the results of the Malaysian Runners’ Survey to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, through his Deputy, Datuk M. Saravanan, yesterday in parliament.

    I urge the Minister to do more to ensure that the quality of races in Malaysian is maintained at a high level. As an athlete himself, I am sure that he would want to see the interest of runners in Malaysia protected and that more and more Malaysians will have access to affordable and high quality races in the country.

    I applaud the Ministry of Youth and Sports for showing the way by organizing the Fit Malaysia run on the 12th of August, which is free of charge, and also for organizing the SEA games run in Putrajaya on the 19th of August, so that runners can also support our SEA games marathon athletes who will also be competing in Putrajaya on the same morning.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Attachment 1: Malaysian Runners’ Survey, 30th of July 2017

    Attachment 2: Jawapan Kamar Khas – Badan Pemantauan Acara Larian

    Attachment 3: Letter to YB Khairy Jamaluddin on the Malaysian Runners’ Survey, 31 July 2017

    [1] https://www.facebook.com/events/1693451187639577/permalink/1784785265172835/

    [2] https://www.facebook.com/HRDF-Half-Marathon-2015-819245831478966/

    [3] https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1fLzyuDKh1aPltpmuvbdgmCfj1Fqod17CvMuwU675MhE/edit#responses

    [4] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/features/article/running-enthusiasts-call-for-monitoring-body

  • The Minister in charge of SPAD has to answer to taxi and ehailing drivers if a Drivers’ Tribunal is not established under the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of July, 2017

    The Minister in charge of SPAD has to answer to taxi and ehailing drivers if a Drivers’ Tribunal is not established under the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Earlier this month, in a dialogue session organized by the DAP with ehailing drivers, one of the main complaints we heard was that there was no independent body or a third party which the drivers can appeal to in they disagreed with a decision by the ehailing company they are driving for. For example, we heard complaints from a number of drivers who claimed to have been banned or suspended from an ehailing company for no apparent reason. Many taxi drivers also have complaints against the companies they are driving for. They also have no independent body or third body which can hear their complaints and make a ruling.

    The Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010, which is currently being debated in parliament, does not address this problem at all. As such, I proposed a motion to introduce a new section in this act to establish a “Taxi Drivers’ and Ehailing Drivers’ Tribunal” (Appendix 2). This tribunal is similar to the Consumers’ Tribunal which was established in Section 85 to Section 122 of the Consumers’ Protection Act 1999. Sadly, my motion to introduce this tribunal was rejected by the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat (Appendix 1). In her reply in parliament, the Minister in charge of tabling this bill, Dato’ Sri Nancy Shukri rejected the need for a tribunal because she said that SPAD can currently handle the complaints of the taxi drivers and later on, of the ehailing drivers when ehailing is legalised after the gazetting of this bill and the ehailing licenses have been approved.

    The problem with this suggestion is that SPAD may not have the legal jurisdiction to compel the ehailing companies to follow its decisions on disputes between drivers and their companies. For example, SPAD may find that an ehailing company owes a driver thousands of ringgit in unpaid fares that is subject to a dispute. Can SPAD compel the ehailing company to pay this driver his unpaid fares? Or will the driver have to go to court to seek his unpaid fares? The advantage of a tribunal is that it is a cost-effective way for drivers have their complaints heard without the need to pay expensive legal and court fees. There is also the question of whether SPAD has the capacity to investigate and hear all the cases involving ehailing drivers after this act is passed and gazetted.

    This tribunal is not just for ehailing drivers. It can also be used by taxi drivers who have complaints against their companies.

    Since this tribunal is not likely to be established under this act, I call upon all ehailing and taxi drivers who have complaints against their companies to call the SPAD complaint hotline (1800-88-7723), SMS SPAD at 15888 or email SPAD at aduan@spad.gov.my to lodge their complaints, if they have any, against their respective companies, to show SPAD that there is an urgent need for a Drivers’ Tribunal to hear and to rule on these complaints.

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Appendix 1: Letter from the Speaker rejecting my motion to introduce a Taxi Drivers and Ehailing Drivers Tribunal in the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

    Appendix 2: Motion to introduce a Taxi and Ehailing Drivers’ Tribunal in the Land Public Transport Act (Amendment) 2010

  • Challenges for the MRT and public transportation in the Klang Valley

    Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 24th of July, 2017

    Challenges for the MRT and public transportation in the Klang Valley

    The full MRT line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang has been operational for a week already. After the initial fanfare and trains packed with Ministers, MRT has to now face the challenges of (i) reaching its daily ridership targets (ii) ensuring accessibility, affordability and integration and (iii) maintaining financial sustainability.

    1) Reaching its daily ridership targets

    This may seem like an obvious statement but the main challenge for the MRT is to get more and more people to use it. According to MRT, the planned capacity for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang line (Line 1) is a daily ridership of about 400,000 passengers. Each train set has four cars with a total capacity of 1200 passengers and the trains will run at a frequency of approximately 3.5 minutes.[1] More recently, this figure has been revised downwards to a ridership of 150,000 a day.[2]

    It will take some time before users get used to taking the MRT including getting to know the MRT route, the feeder bus schedules and route, how to use the MRT to connect to other forms of public transportation such as the LRT, KTM and Rapid KL buses and the stations which have car parks.

    To put the 150,000 daily ridership number in context, it is useful to compare to the daily ridership numbers for the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines (See Figure 1 below)

    The Kelana Jaya line is the busiest with a daily ridership of 218,888 in Q1 2017 followed by the Ampang line with a daily ridership of 155,217. The KTM Komuter has a daily ridership of 111,163 and the KL Monorail trails behind with a daily ridership of 54,725.

    The daily ridership of the LRT, KTM Komuter and Monorail experienced a decline in Q1 2016 due to the significant fare hike which took place in December 2015. In fact, all these rail lines have not recovered from their pre-Q1 2016 daily ridership numbers even though the LRT extension to Putra Heights started its operations in June 2016. The increase in the daily ridership numbers from Q2 2016 to Q3 2016 was hardly significant. The daily ridership of the KL Monorail reached a four year low in Q1 2017 partly due to the delay in the delivery of the four car monorail by SCOMI to Prasarana (The dispute between SCOMI and Prasarana is still tied up in the courts).[3]

    The whole point of building an MRT line rather than a less expensive LRT line is to increase the passenger capacity. While the initial targeted daily ridership of 150,000 is a good target to aim for in the short term, in the longer run, the MRT Line 1 ridership should eventually exceed that of the Kelana Jaya LRT line. In the meantime, MRT has to face the challenge to increase its daily ridership by ten-fold, from 15,000 before the line was fully operational to Kajang to the targeted 150,000 now that Line 1 is fully operational.

    2) Accessibility, Affordability and Integration

    To increase its ridership, MRT has to be aware of the need for accessibility to its stations, the need to maintain affordable fares and integration to other Rail Lines.

    In terms of accessibility, MRT has done a decent job in its feeder bus network that connects nearby housing areas to its stations. (The feeder bus network to LRT stations in comparison is far more limited). The bus routes can be downloaded from the MRT website[4] although as far as I know, the routes and the bus schedules have not been installed at the bus stops yet. There is also no MRT app which shows these bus routes. Making this information more accessible will channel more people to take the MRT.

    In terms of affordability, the price of the MRT fares is not too different from the LRT. A cashless trip from Kajang to Sungai Buloh costs RM5.50 compared to RM5.30 for a cashless trip from Gombak to Putra Heights. SPAD set the MRT fares so that they would be in line with the LRT fares. Dollar for dollar, our LRT and MRT fares are still more expensive than Singapore especially since Singapore practices integrated fares where a journey from home to work involving a bus trip and an MRT trip counts as one trip whereas in Malaysia, one has to pay separately for a bus trip, an LRT trip and an MRT trip. Many people are taking advantage of the 50% discounted fare now, which lasts until the 31st of August. I think this is a good move in that it will allow more people to get used to taking the MRT during this period. The test will come after the 31st of August when fares revert to their normal rates. Will there be a significant fall in ridership similar to what was experienced by the Sunway BRT when ridership fell by more than 60% as a result of the imposition of ridiculously expensive fares?[5] Only time will tell.

    One way in which MRT can make it more affordable is to introduce a monthly pass at a cost of between RM100 to RM150 which entitles a passenger to make unlimited trips. Most metro lines in the world have some form of weekly or monthly pass with unlimited trips. My RAPID used to offer this card for the LRT but has since been phased out. One of the challenges in introducing this monthly card may be the fear of lost revenue on the part of My RAPID (more on this below).

    Finally, the MRT needs to be integrated with other forms of rail transportation in order to increase its ridership. For Line 1, there are numerous stations which connect to the KTM (Kajang MRT), to the Ampang LRT Line (Maluri MRT, Merdeka MRT), to the Sri Petaling LRT Line (Merdeka MRT), to the Kelana Jaya LRT Line (Pasar Seni MRT) and to KL Sentral (Muzium Negara MRT). As the rail network in the Klang Valley expands after the MRT Line 2 and the LRT Line 3 are built, more stations will be integrated with the MRT lines. This kind of integration not only increases ridership on MRT Line 1 but will also have a positive spillover effect on the other LRT lines. The only negative effect may be for some of the KTM stations such as Kajang since the frequency of trains for the MRT is much higher than the KTM Komuter.

    3) Financial sustainability

    Any discussion on the sustainability of public transportation has to involve the question of cost. The cost of constructing the MRT Line 1 has been the subject of public debate. The government announced that the total construction cost (not including land acquisition and the rolling stock i.e. the trains) was RM21 billion, two billion lower than the initially projected cost of RM23 billion.[6] Others have disputed this cost including how much was paid to MMC-Gamuda, the project delivery partner (PDP).[7]

    What is less well-known and less debated is the fact that MRT Corp, which is the asset owner of the MRT line, does not own the debt associated with the cost of construction. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Dana Infra have issued bonds to finance the MRT Line 1. At the time of writing, Dana Infra has issued a total of RM36.9 billion in bonds (We don’t have a breakdown of how much of this was spent on MRT Line 1). This amount is projected to increase as the construction of Line 2 begins.

    The advantage of the separation of debt and asset ownership is that MRT Corp does not have to worry about the debt servicing costs, which even based on the construction cost of RM21 billion, will amount to approximately RM1 billion a year. This way, MRT can focus on expanding its ridership and earning non-fare revenue through other means.

    As the asset owner, MRT has signed an agreement with Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, which is owned by PRASARANA, to operate and run the train and feeder bus services. PRASARANA already has the experience and the facilities to hire and train both bus and train drivers so it makes sense for the operations to be given to Rapid KL. The agreement between MRT and Rapid Rail also states that MRT will receive all non-fare revenue while Rapid Rail will collect all fare revenue (MRT fare as well as feeder bus fare).

    The challenge for PRASARANA is to ensure that its MRT related operations are profitable. I had written last year regarding the financial challenges facing PRASARANA.[8] Because of its high accumulated debt, its revenue of roughly half a billion RM was barely sufficient to cover its financing costs. With the increase in PRASARANA’s debt from the LRT extension and from the ongoing construction of the LRT 3 line, its debt servicing cost will definitely increase. It remains to be seen if PRASARANA can earn an operational profit from its MRT operations. The feeder bus network is likely to be loss making, at least initially, while the train operations will only be profitable if the ridership targets can be met. How long will PRASRANA be willing to run these operations at a loss? How long will the Ministry of Finance subsidize PRASARANA while it is running up these operational losses for the MRT line? We have to wait and see.

    In the meantime, MRT faces the challenge of raising its income through non-fare revenue strategies such as property development around its stations, advertising and retail. Since MRT has no fare related revenue, this has put more emphasis on the need to look for non-fare revenue sources. MRT opened up advertising concession agreements for its interior, outdoor and train advertising packages. Big Tree Outdoor (BTO) which won the outdoor advertising concession, estimates that as much as RM300 million can be generated from this 10-year contract.[9]

    MRT has also sold station naming rights at four of its stations which costs RM1.2 to RM1.5 million a year.[10]

    According to MRT’s commercial and land management director, Datuk Haris Fadzilah Hassan, MRT Corp is expecting to earn between RM22 million and RM25 million from retail, advertising and parking revenue annually. Whether or not this is sufficient for MRT to cover its operational expenses remains to be seen especially since its administrative expenses for the Financial Year 2016 totalled RM53 million.

    Perhaps, MRT can supplement its income via transit oriented property development, especially in selected locations along the MRT Line 2 which runs from Sungai Buloh through Serdang and all the way to Putrajaya.

    4) Is MRT a game-changer?

    Some people have commented that MRT is a ‘game-changer’. I don’t quite agree, at least for now. There is no denying that the rail system in the Klang Valley has increased its area of coverage over the past 20 years. The introduction of the MRT should be seen as an additional rail service in this larger rail network.

    This is not to deny that taking the new MRT trains is a much more pleasant experience compared to the LRT. The stations are larger and better designed, there are more Park & Ride facilities available and the trains are wider. On Saturday, I parked at the Kajang MRT and took the train to Muzium Negara and then to Pasar Seni before going back to Kajang. I have also seen many of the MRT feeder buses going to previously unserved housing areas in my parliamentary constituency to connect passengers to the Cheras Batu 11, the BTHO, the Taman Connaught and the Bukit Dukung MRT stations, just to name a few.

    Perhaps the MRT can be called a game-changer when Line 2 (and perhaps Line 3) has been built and opened. But for now, I will do my part in encouraging the voters in my constituency to use public transportation especially the MRT and at the same time, monitor closely to see if MRT can successfully face the challenges I’ve posed in this statement. I wish them nothing but the best!

    Dr. Ong Kian Ming
    Member of Parliament for Serdang

    Selfie at Kajang MRT Station Names

    Long Escalator at Muzium Negara Station

    Inside the MRT train

    Screen above passengers showing next station

    Inside the MRT train

    [1] http://www.mymrt.com.my/en/sbk/the-mrt-sungai-buloh-kajang-line

    [2] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/the-cheat-sheet-for-klang-valleys-newest-ride-the-mrt-sbk

    [3] http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/11/no-end-in-sight-to-kls-monorail-woes-as-scomi-prasarana-dispute-lingers/

    [4] http://www.mymrt.com.my/en/sbk/travel-info

    [5] http://penanginstitute.org/v3/research/penang-institute-in-kuala-lumpur/the-sunway-bus-rapid-transit-brt-line-lessons-for-the-future

    [6] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mrt-corp-keeps-sungai-buloh-kajang-line-within-rm23b-budget

    [7] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/mrt-corp-keeps-sungai-buloh-kajang-line-within-rm23b-budget

    [8] http://ongkianming.com/2016/08/09/press-statement-five-reasons-why-public-transportation-in-malaysia-is-more-expensive-compared-to-singapore/

    [9] https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/09/176703/bto-led-consortium-wins-mrt-advertising-concession

    [10] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/07/11/four-mrt-stations-along-sbk-line-to-be-branded/

Page 1 of 7312345...102030...Last »