I do hope some Malaysians enjoyed the three-day free rides on the RapidKL Rail Kelana Jaya line last week. The events leading up to it were definitely horrendous to some.
For those not in the know, the Kelana Jaya LRT line broke down twice – first on Sept 7 and then once again on Sept 9 – due to problems regarding the power supply.
Thus, I waited for RapidKL Rail and its parent, Prasarana, to offer a statement detailing the error and what is needed. They detailed the problem, and then gave everyone free rides for three days.
So, I waited for a statement from the regulators, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD). Surely they would see the void many Malaysians have seen within the public transport plan. Instead, SPAD issued a statement asking Prasarana to have safeguards so that this doesn’t happen again.
Again, not exactly what was needed – so I waited for Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai to say something. And yet again, I was disappointed when all the Minister did was demand for an explanation.
In fact, even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was given an explanation by Prasarana on what happened and issued his own statement. He says the power disruptions were due to the need to upgrade 15 power substations along the Kelana Jaya line.
In addition to this, SPAD will be asking for a thorough review of the 20-year-old LRT line, and Prasarana will be launching new trains by this November.
I have rambled for a while, but have you noticed what was missing?
None of these statements – either from Prasarana, SPAD, the Ministry of Transport, or even the Prime Minister himself – was there any mention of a need for a backup plan if the train line breaks down.
There is no mention of a plan to activate the RapidKL buses to ferry marooned rail passengers from one station to another, let alone from a broken down LRT line to other rail lines with stations still in service.
I have only been to London three times throughout my entire life. I’m sure those who have issued the statements above have all been there more times than I have. Even I know that Transport for London (TfL), the Prasarana equivalent, does this.
So why the absence of such a plan here in Malaysia?
We have the GoKL and Rapid KL service in Kuala Lumpur. We have the free shuttles from the state government, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Rapid KL in Selangor.
Are you telling me and the Malaysians working in KL that there is no way to link all of these to somehow cater to a broken down Kelana Jaya LRT line?
If this is true, then it is a huge missing link in the public transportation network in the Greater Klang Valley that needs to be rectified. And it is not only on the heads of Prasarana, but all parties involved including the politicians and the local councils.
If we want to encourage more Malaysians to depend on public transport, it has to be both affordable and reliable. The former is a surety if one does not buy a car, the latter is where all those involved need to boost confidence in the system.
To do so, you need to ensure that the system has backups.
The starting point for Prasarana and all agencies involved to come together is to ensure that commuters can get from point A to point B regardless of the service disruptions on the rail lines?
This would require the buses to take commuters from the broken down line to an active line, activate additional buses along these routes, and subsequently refund commuters for the failed trips.
The line will break down again, in fact, all the rail lines will break down at one point or another. It is an inevitability. The challenge is having a backup network that can cater to the crowd when it does.
So far, it is rather disappointing to note that no one seems to be suggesting this.
Hafidz Baharom@The Heat Malaysia Online