Commuters will spend more with KL MRT, says research group

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

The RM36.6 billion Kuala Lumpur Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project is based on outdated transport data and could cost commuters an extra RM403.5 million in fuel expenses within the first five years of operations, claims a local research group.

Association of Water and Energy Research (Awer) president S. Piarapakaran said the extra burden on commuters is due to a lack of good supporting infrastructure to ferry commuters from their homes to the stations.

“It is about access to the station, not just about the MRT system per se. While the MRT may serve the people well, we are still way behind in terms of transporting these commuters to the stations so that they can actually use the system,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

According to the Klang Valley MRT website, the ambitious project will have 35 stations along its 51km line that stretches from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, with 13 proposed park-and-ride stations and four interchanges.

Eight of the stations will be underground as 9.5km of the line will be built under the capital city. Groundworks for the MRT is due to start this July 16 and will be completed in 2016.

Piarapakaran said Awer had conducted a financial modelling study two weeks ago to ascertain the likely losses to commuters once the MRT is operational.

The additional losses, he explained, was based on fuel usage by those travelling to the MRT stations.

“We took into consideration the government’s estimation that over 20 per cent of road users utilise public transport like taxis and buses and the remaining 80 per cent use their own individual vehicles.

“So based on that, we are projecting the kind of traffic congestion that will likely occur when these commuters move from their homes to the stations,” he said.

According to Awer’s projections, additional fuel costs to road users for the first five years of the MRT’s operations from 2016 to 2020 would likely total RM403.5 million.

The study includes parameters like an estimated twice-daily traffic congestion (morning and evening) with 30 minutes of peak traffic, rate of passenger flow in an hour, 40 weeks of five working days for a year, RON 95 fuel cost (RM1.90 now and 10 per cent increase per year) and statistics of public transportation usage (20 per cent use public transport).

“But these are just cautious estimates because we are just considering 30 minutes of peak congestion. The total amount could be even higher,” he said.

Piarapakaran also claimed the multibillion ringgit project had yet to obtain approval from the Department of Environment (DOE) or complete its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

“So I am wondering, why are they jumping the gun and announcing the project when it may not even be given the green light to go ahead.

“The EIA process has not even been done yet and this takes time,” he said.

Piarapakaran claimed that according to his sources, the DOE was scheduled to receive the EIA report from the project’s consultants by month-end.

“But that does not end the process. You need to put it up for public review, then the EIA consultants need to re-submit the report. The process takes between one to two months,” he said.

He added that consultants would also need to conduct a social impact study in their EIA report, which includes obtaining feedback and interviewing the local communities affected by the project.

“As far as I know, most resident associations are against the project. So it looks like their views have not yet been taken into consideration,” he said.

Piarapakaran said the local communities were worried the project would worsen congestion on the roads should more people opt to use the MRT system.