An Open Letter to Idris Jala

Richard Loh’s open letter to Idris Jala, expressing his hope that the implementation of the ETP will have the rakyat’s best interests at heart.

Hi Dato Seri Idris Jala,

I am Richard Loh from Penang and wish to speak my mind as a layman who really cares about our nation. I am eager to meet you upon learning that you will be at #UndiMsia!Chats but may not be able to attend, hence my open letter to you.

I would like apologise in advance should anything I say be wrong or offends you or anyone; it is unintentional, I am just speaking my mind.

Targeting to be a developed nation by 2020 is good provided we are laying the right path towards it. We would have achieved developed status in 2000 if we sincerely and truthfully laid, and followed, the right path. Until now, we are still in search for that right path; or perhaps we know it but dare not use it because of fear?

The question is, “What are the planned ETP based on?” Progress of the nation with the rakyat in mind? Or is it politically & monetary based? By monetary, I mean whereby only certain groups would benefit from it.

I would safely say that your answer will be for the “Progress of the nation with the rakyat in mind” — which I doubt, as I have lived long enough to see the various PMs fail miserably.

We can forget about our once world’s tallest structure, you can decide whether it served any purpose from the rakyat’s point of view.

I am for the highways and the North South Expressway because it truly serves the rakyat, but in a way it is killing the rakyat as well with its toll collection. I agree that toll has to be collected but to what extent? By now I would guess the toll collected for the NSE is many times over the total cost of construction, but we still need to pay toll with rates increasing for the next 30 to 40 years. Logically, toll rates should be reduced over time as the volume of vehicles increases, and toll collection should be at a minimum for the purpose of maintenance and upgrading only. The toll charges one way from Duta to Juru in Penang is RM54, and there are thousands of cars plying this route everyday. Just do the math.

The above is just one example of progress of necessity without considering the rakyat’s extra burden in the long term.

Now coming back to the latest ETP, brainchild of yours via PM Najib. I am truly glad that PM Najib roped you in for the ETP planning.

Let us take a look at the latest MRT project, assuming it to be non-political, with the sole purpose of benefiting and serving the rakyat. Yet I find many questions on how it is being planned or going to be implemented.

Q1. When was this latest MRT project planned, years ago before Najib was the PM or just recently when he took over the premiership?

It may have been planned years ago but put into cold storage and given a new life after Najib became the PM. But most likely it was hatched when Najib became PM. Why I say so is because there is no actual concrete finalised master plan. Everything is still in the planning or negotiation stages. Glaring proof is the cost, from an initial RM30+ billion, then RM40+ billion, to RM50+ billion and latest news it that the actual cost may go higher. Next, the decision was made to acquire historic or heritage locations, have the pros & cons been studied, and has it been concluded that the pros outweighed the cons? Is it really a must with no other feasible routes?  Without a complete concrete master plan put into place it would be a disaster in terms of cost, time, and construction problems when work begins.

Q2. Is the MRT a transportation solution for the rakyat or a bid to be another “Malaysia Boleh” in the eyes of the world?

If it is a transportation solution, “connections” is the key word. Of course we do not expect all stations to be right in front of everyone’s doorsteps, but we expect bus stands to be in front of or near to all MRT stations, with buses ploughing through housing estates and high population areas. This brings us to my next question.

Q3. Has the planning of the MRT system incorporated bus transportation routes as well?

There is not much point providing parking spaces (as space is very limited and expensive) for motorists to drive to the stiations in order to take the MRT, or the need to go to and from stations by taxis.

I am sure all the planners must have visited countries with mass MRT systems and did their research before coming up with our own system. Just take a look at the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York)) and you will understand what I mean. Connectivity. I have used our present monorail, LRT, etc whenever I am in KL and found it to be very disconnected. Hopefully the latest MRT will not repeat the same mistakes.

This kind of massive project cannot be rushed in its planning stage. It requires fully detailed planning from A to Z. Once completed, rectifying errors is possible but would cost much more.

If the ETP projects are not politically motivated, everything from planning, tendering and expenditure should be open and transparent. Any tendency for leakages should be prevented at all costs.

We now hear pleasing results from the ETP. But the actual end results will be jeopardised if we cannot admit that there are faults in our system that need to be rectified.

My hope is that the present ETP will not follow previous methods of implementation through political expediency for it will fail again.

Thank you for hearing me out.

Richard Loh

Please come for UndiMsia!Chats with Idris Jala this Saturday, 12 November 2011, from 10am to noon at the LoyarBurok Rakyat Centre. Details here.

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5 Responses to An Open Letter to Idris Jala

  1. Scoopy

    Even if there are buses to the LRT?MRT stations, the bus services are damn pathetic and erratic…

    • Richard Loh

      That is why I asked the question whether their MRT system incorporated bus transportation routes and its frequencies, which is very important for the overall success of the public transport system.

  2. Richard Loh

    Thank you ETP Roadmap for your comment.

    Even though the answers may be vague in some way I agree fully that interconnectivity between the MRT, LRT and KTM Komuter, monorail and bus systems is there or should I say 'A Must'. I understand the good of the rail-based public transport service but the design and alignment must be there to really serve its purpose especially the importance of the bus route services and its frequencies as well. You cannot come out of the station to see just taxis waiting and no other means of transport to continue the journey.

    Anyway I trust that you are all professionals and know what you are doing and your hands are not tied but free to do what is right for the rakyat.

  3. ETP Roadmap

    Dear Richard,Dear Richard,

    Thank you for writing this. The journey towards becoming a high income nation is not an easy one. We have met with many challenges and skepticism, but we are encouraged that there are supporters and advocates of the work we are doing. Anyway, here are some answers to your concerns about the MRT project.

    Q1. When was this latest MRT project planned, years ago before Najib was the PM or just recently when he took over the premiership?
    The proposal for a rail-based public transport service for the Sungai Buloh-Kajang corridor was proposed in 2006 by Prasarana. Feasibility studies were carried out on the alignment and engagement with the local authorities were done since 2006. This alignment was also proposed subsequently under the Kuala Lumpur Draft City Plan in 2008 and under the Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley NKEA laboratory in July 2010 in its proposal for an MRT system for the Klang Valley. This alignment is also an amalgamation of two alignments proposed by MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd in their Klang Valley MRT Project proposal. As such, the Government is confident to begin construction of this line because it has been well studied and that the corridor, which has a catchment population of 1.2 million people, is in dire need to be served by rail-based public transport service.

    Q2. Is the MRT a transportation solution for the rakyat or a bid to be another “Malaysia Boleh” in the eyes of the world?
    Rail-based public transport, such as the MRT, LRT or commuter train, always forms the backbone of a city's public transport system. This is because it can carry large numbers of people. It can move people quickly because it is not hindered by road traffic. It also removes vehicles from the road. One MRT train carriage holding 300 passengers can remove the equivalent of 177 cars from the road. The Klang Valley will have a 10 million population by the year 2020 and the rakyat will need an efficient public transport system which can be achieved with an MRT.
    Without the additional public transport capacity provided by the MRT integrated with the LRT, KTM, monorail and bus systems, the city will be choked by traffic, making it less livable for its residents and being an impediment to attract investors.
    Initiated by the Government of Malaysia in December 2010 under the Greater Kuala Lumpur / Klang Valley National Key Economic Area (NKEA) as detailed in the Economic Transformation Programme and is crucial for the targets of the NKEA to be achieved.

    Q3. Has the planning of the MRT system incorporated bus transportation routes as well?
    There is going to be interconnectivity between the MRT, LRT and KTM Komuter, monorail and bus systems. For example, There are 2 MRT-LRT interchanges one at Pasar Seni (Kelana Jaya line) and Taman Maluri (Ampang line) and 2 MRT-KTM Komuter interchanges at Sungai Buloh and Kajang. The MRT will also have a station near KL Sentral where the station will be linked to the transportation hub via an underground walkway with travellators, lifts and escalators. The distance between the MRT station and the KL Sentral complex is about 200m.

    We hope we have sufficiently answered your questions. On that note, we look forward to hearing from you at UndiMsia!Chats with Idris Jala this Saturday, 12 November 2011, from 10am to noon at the LoyarBurok Rakyat Centre. If you are unable to be there in person, feel free to join the conversation on Twitter by following us at http://www.twitter.com/etp_roadmap or via the hashtag #UndiMsiaChats

    If you'd like more information on the MRT, GTP and ETP, you might find the information on our websites helpful
    ETP: http://etp.pemandu.gov.my/
    GTP: http://www.pemandu.gov.my/gtp/
    KVMRT: http://kvmrt.com.my/