Toll-free Highways Not Possible?

  1. Tun Dr. Mahathir has said that it is not possible to have toll-free roads under current government revenue and spending pattern.
  2. If we must commit to Pakatan’s manifesto, then it means the government’s revenue must be increased.
  3. The Prime Minister also said that they did not expect to win the election when they crafted the manifesto.
  4. There are people who believed that the new government can abolish the tolls for expressways. Hence, they voted for the new government.
  5. The new government then realized many of the populist moves spelt out in their manifeso is not feasible and this is not just because of the huge debt left by the previous government. The revenue stream simply cannot sustain their planned spending pattern.
  6. The new government has less than 5 years from now to prove their capability. Otherwise, people may vote them out in the next upcoming General Election.
  7. Many of the expressway development in Malaysia is being undertaken by private entities. This is because of the huge cost involved in building these expressways.
  8. The limited amount of budget allocated for road maintenance can be channelled towards maintaining other Federal or State roads.
  9. Therefore, while having tolls is not a popular move, it helps to improvise the living condition of the urban population by reducing their travel time within the city or between major cities in Malaysia.

The Inevitable Change in Taxi Industry

March 2018 is seen as a month of victory for our Malaysian-born Grab has it has managed to secure a comfortable portion of electronic hailing (e-hailing) market share in Southeast Asia. A deal was struck between Grab and US-born Uber for the latter to cease operating in the Southeast Asia effective 9 April 2018. In return, Uber gets 27.5% stake in Grab. According to Grab’s official website, almost 4 million rides are done on the platform daily. Being a Malaysian-born company, Grab started its operation in Malaysia as MyTeksi in 2012, moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2014 and now it has expanded to more than 142 cities in Southeast Asia.

KL Tower
KL Tower

During its initial days of operation as a car sharing service, many taxi drivers oppose it. We have had numerous protests in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to oppose the e-hailing services. The government and its affiliated agencies were pressured to intervene in order to safeguard the interest of taxi drivers and companies. The situation became worse as the taxi drivers tend to take matters into their own hands. On 28 June 2016, a 35-year old Grab driver was attacked by irate taxi drivers as he was about to pick up a passenger outside the MidValley Megamall. Meanwhile, on 20 June 2016, an Uber driver was attacked at KL Sentral station and one of his passengers was injured as an angry taxi driver dragged them out of the car.

Let us face the reality. In the past, the Malaysian government and private sectors within their respective capacities have tried to improve the system. Exclusive access and waiting areas were assigned to numerous shopping malls, airports and other points of attraction. Besides, NGV, a cheaper vehicle fuel alternative was also introduced to key areas in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley area. The government has also demonstrated its commitment to assisting taxi drivers by making NGV more affordable for them. According to Malaysia: Natural Gas Industry Annual Review 2012 report published by Malaysian Gas Association, the Malaysian government has spent almost RM 28 billion in the form of various subsidies for natural gas, NGV included.

Despite the numerous improvement methods, many taxi drivers suffer from an attitude problem. It is common to hear tourists complain about being overcharged and violent driving behaviour of the drivers. On 17 December 2016, Malaysians got a shock of their life when two French tourists were charged RM 800 for a short ride from KLCC to National Mosque. While stern actions have been taken by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) on the said taxi operator, over the years, the overcharging and bad driving practice have shown no signs of abating.

To combat the negative attitudes of the taxi drivers, many solutions were proposed. Fares are regulated, and meter usage was made compulsory for all Klang Valley taxi drivers. Anybody still remembers the mandatory “no haggling” signage on our taxis? Unfortunately, our tourists are able to read that sign and still being overcharged by the taxi drivers. The blatant disregard of the law and guidelines have frequently drive tourists and authorities to the wall but not enough has been done to solve the problem. One The Star reporter had even gone undercover to find how deep the problem is. In one article published on 7 Oct 2012 on the news portal, one shocking finding was revealed: only 1 out of 11 taxi drivers in KL followed the regulated fare.

Years of bad service and the advent of smartphones with GPS technology seems to provide a right recipe for e-hailing. As the smartphones get more advanced and affordable, it has opened up a slew of new possibilities, which includes e-hailing. In the early days of e-hailing, many of the drivers were existing taxi drivers. As the years passed by, more people signed up to drive for e-hailing services, citing money-making opportunities and flexible work arrangements as their primary factors in doing so. Besides, the booking and driver review system have improved the service availability and reliability, thus making it more appealing to the users.

After several years of using Grab, the service is no longer a stranger to us. More people do no longer consider purchasing new cars, especially in the heavily-congested areas. Considering how difficult it was to use a taxi service before, there is no point in going back to the old trend. It is now the time for us to move on and think about possible transport advancements in the future.

MRT Service Disruption: What It Means for Us

Petaling Jaya, September 28th 2017 – MRT Sungai Buloh – Kajang  Line (SBK Line) was suspended temporarily after a man ran into the train track area. The shutdown happened on Tuesday evening as commuters are getting back from work.

The inevitable shutdown of train service has to take place due to safety concerns. Other than making sure that the area is safe for trains and passengers, the authorities also need to suspend the MRT service in order to catch the intruder. Fortunately, the police have managed to apprehend the intruder. However, his identity and motive remained undisclosed.

While commuters may be angry due to the unscheduled service suspension, we need to keep in mind that this is done with passengers’ safety in mind. The person may not be in his right state of mind, or he can possibly have malicious intent.

History has shown how much unprepared we were during times of emergency. In the aviation industry, everyone can learn from MH 370 incident when a commercial aeroplane which was supposed to leave our airspace, came back flying above Penang and disappeared until today. Therefore, although the inconvenience can be troublesome for passengers, it is done as a necessary measure to ensure the safety of everyone.

 

Source: The Star

Feasibility study of railroad infrastructure in Borneo?

Our railroad network in peninsular Malaysia has undergone a lot of transformation since the time when it was introduced for the first time in 19th century (Taiping – Kuala Sepetang Line, no longer exists today).

Apart from Electrified Double Tracking Project (EDTP), we have also made significant progress in railroad industry by having our own rolling stock (trainset) assembling plant, operated by CRRC Zhuzhou from China. Apart from job opportunities created, indirectly we are developing our own talents in railroad industry.

(1) The atmosphere is Borneo is a little bit different compared to Peninsular Malaysia. People in Borneo would like to have more autonomy in making decisions for their own state. Landslide victory of Adenan Satem in recent state election has enlightened us on their desire since Adenan is seen as a CM that fights for more autonomy for his people.

(2) Other than having control of their immigration system (it is illegal for non-residents of Sarawak to stay more than 90 days in the state without proper permit), issues were also raised by the CM about non-Sarawakian workforce of a local oil and gas company operating in Sarawak.

What does (1) and (2) has to do with railroad infrastructure? Well, due to (1) and (2), I think it is best if concerned citizens from Sarawak to carry out their own feasibility study of developing railroad infrastructure in the state. In my opinion, railroad enthusiasts from Peninsular will be more than glad to offer any kind of assistance required, subject to restrictions by the democratically-elected state government. Of note, Sabah already has its own railway, owned by its state government.

Kelana Jaya Line LRT Power Outage: TNB-RapidKL Blame Game

September 19th 2014 – A brief power outage has occured on 1:50 PM in some stations along Kelana Jaya line, causing commuters to be stranded at the stations as the crowd begin to swell as peak travel time draws near. According to statements made by RapidKL, the route between Masjid Jamek and Gombak station was affected by the outage. Fortunately, on 4:01 PM, power has been restored, just in time before workers find their way back home.

Although Kelana Jaya Line now has been equipped with new four-coach trains, congestion during peak periods is still a norm. It is not as bad as KL Monorail though.

During power outage, shuttle buses are being provided by RapidKL. However, the signage is not clear enough, with most of the instructions only comes from twitter.

Inter-service communication was smooth as we can see some notice put up via electronic display at Imbi KL Monorail station. However, when the service backs to normal, the signage was not updated promptly. This may cause confusion to commuters.

Translation: Kelana Jaya LRT service is fully functioning again. Any inconvenience caused are deeply regretted.

The Blame Game – RapidKL says:

On 1:50 PM, RapidKL announced the delay of Kelana Jaya Line, without mentioning specific reason of service delay.

Translation: KJ Line Update: We are having technical problems. Delays in schedule are expected.

Six minutes later they announced it was due to power fault between Masjid Jamek and Gombak.

Translation: KJ Line Update: 1350 hrs We are having power supply problems. Restoration work is being carried out.

About an hour later, they said it is because of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB):

Translation: KJ Line Update: 1450hrs Kelana Jaya LRT service is still disrupted due to power supply interruption by TNB.

They even made a direct mention to TNB official twitter account, probably inducing commuters to address their complaints to TNB directly.

The Blame Game – TNB says:

Lets see what TNB has to say, via its corporate communications general manager, Omar Sidek:

“TNB would like to clarify that the stalled LRT services earlier Friday was due to switchgear fault at Rapid KL’s end.”

“We deny news reports that burnt TNB cables caused disruption to the LRT services”

Conclusion

While we cannot find conclusive evidence yet on the occurence, we believe some sort of miscommunication took place. We hope that emergency response team of both agencies will be more prepared for problems like this.

KTM Intercity SCS Special Train Service

KTM Intercity has recently introduced a special train service that covers between KL Sentral and Ipoh at a competitive rate.

Users can buy the tickets at KTM Intercity counters located at KL Sentral and Ipoh Station. One-way journey will cost RM 25 for adults and RM 17 for children. There is no assigned seating for this service.

We were impressed by initiative from KTM to make the best out of what they currently have, we are disappointed with the uniavailability of onboard toilet for the coach. Journey between KL Sentral and Ipoh is not a short one. With a rough estimation of about two hours, quite a number of people would need to use the onboard toilet while they are on their journey. The availability of onboard toilet is very important to enable better customer experience.

However, we understand that this is probably the best solution that can come out from KTM Berhad’s management

KTM Berhad is one of the few service providers that are being compelled to use below-average rolling stocks, impose below-average train fares and numerous other limitations. We understand that i suffers from operational loss every year. Therefore, the government needs to improve this situation.

Railway industry in Malaysia as a lot of room for growth. Right now, only North-South highway is our transport backbone between northern and southern Malaysia. Therefore, by focusing more effort on improving rail services in Malaysia, we believe that the industry can prosper at a greater pace.

KL – Singapore High Speed Rail Link: Abe Pitches Japanese Technology to Najib

KTM Berhad Logo
KTM Berhad Logo

The Japanese Prime Minister suggested the use of Shinkansen technology in building high speed rail link between Singapore and KL during their recent meetup session, as reported by The Straits Times Asia.

Constructing high speed rail service is not easy. The government alone cannot produce a project of this magnitude without affecting other aspects of country expenditure. Therefore, initiatives and partnerships from private firms is highly encouraged to take place. Government-linked Companies (GLCs) should also move their investment arms and turn this project into a successful venture.

The establishment of high speed rail link is expected to have some degree of negative impact towards KTM Intercity service. One source said that KL – Singapore is the most profitable route for KTM Intercity. Therefore, if the rail link is established, KTM Intercity revenue might be jeopardized.

Given the fact that the fares of KTM Intercity is tightly controlled by the government, we do hope that the government does not ‘cannibalize’ its KTM Intercity service. KTM Intercity has lots of room for improvement and it is sad knowing that the government is not doing enough to propel KTM Berhad to a greater height.

We hope that KTM Berhad will have some sort of control over the proposed high speed rail link. Its current business model might be improved in order for them to carry out their business in a more logical and rational basis.

Possible Express Bus Ticket Price Increase?

Our living cost has already been rising. Quite a number of people are complaining that the increase does not correlate well with our paycheck increase. In certain fields, the theory holds true. For a number of people, life has already starting to treat them harshly. However, on November 7, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) gave us worse news. Express bus tickets will increase, according to a news article from BERNAMA.

The SPAD chairman, Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that while the rate increase is still in planning, the price increase is inevitable as the operation cost has also been rising. Customers want more value-added services for their journey such as Wi-Fi services but they do not want to pay more at the same time. This is a difficult move as the operators need to improve their already-thinning profit margin to cope with declining satisfaction level among customers.

In addition, LANDASAN also has been receiving negative reviews on some express bus companies about system failure while booking tickets and also notoriously about how bad is the service from some express bus companies. Perhaps this is one aspect that the companies should look into. It is good to have wonderful value added amenities in express buses but customer satisfaction should never be overlooked.

We hope that with the increase of express bus ticket price, the service quality would also increase.

KTM ETS Food Service Quality

KTM ETS
KTM ETS Logo

Recently, I came across an article in The Star complaining about food service quality onboard ETS train. According to the author, one of the crew members responded rudely when he was asked about the food. Apart from rudeness, complaints can also be seen about unavailability of staff to take care of the orders placed at Food and Beverage counter in ETS’ Food & Beverage coach.

As a service provider with dedicated coach for food and beverage service, KTM Berhad should look into this problem seriously. While there are currently many KTMB staff who can behave appropriately and responded timely with customers’ complaints, there are also some of the ‘rotten eggs’ who smear the overall image of KTM Berhad.

The article mentioned above is about six months old (as of June 2013) but we are hoping that KTM Berhad has conducted a thorough investigation about this problem and rectified it in whichever way necessary. This is important to ensure customer satisfaction is taken up to a higher level.

ETS service is a prime choice of commuters traveling between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. If the service quality (in terms of staff and on-time performance) can be improved, quite a number of people would not mind paying extra compared to public bus as long as they can have a comfortable ride between Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.

We are hoping that KTM Berhad will continue to look into ways to improve ETS service because it has clear advantage over bus service, which is the ability to circumvent through traffic jams (they use railroads!)

Update on July 27th 2013: Dead link

New Business Model for KTMB Freight

KTM Berhad Logo
KTM Berhad Logo

New business model is being proposed for KTMB Freight, the most profitable division in KTM Berhad as reported by Bernama.

The proposal, made by railway workers union, is championing the cause of rejecting Malaysian Mining Corporation (MMC)’s bid to invest up to RM 1 billion in KTMB Freight division. The main concern is if MMC takes over KTMB and suffer losses, employees would lose the benefits the they are currently enjoying such as bonuses, allowances, quarters and healthcare. Their proposal is to allow other private operators to use KTMB existing rail lines with their own rolling stock.

KTM YDM4 Diesel Locomotive
KTM YDM4 Diesel Locomotive

We think the step to attract private operators to use KTMB existing railroad network and paying tolls directly to KTMB will generate added revenue. Furthermore, the major constraint suffered by KTMB now is the limited number of rolling stock. In our opinion, we think the government should invest more in KTMB by providing them with reasonable number of rolling stock, in line with the ongoing double tracking project. KTMB’s current market share in cargo shipment of the country is really low with just about two to five percent.

With the promising progress of the double tracking project, we hope that KTMB will invest more on its cargo as well as passenger sector. This move will enable a more profitable KTMB and fulfilling the needs of commuters and commercial sectors.

LANDASAN