M'sia: Now there is no doubt mass rapid transit (MRT) is on, by Risen Jayaseelan

It does seem that those who were in doubt over whether the Government was serious about building a mass rapid transit (MRT) system have had most of their doubts erased following the recent open day when the Economic Transformation Programme was unveiled.

On that day, the MRT featured in a big way, albeit only as a concrete idea that emanated from the laboratory to make Kuala Lumpur a modern city.

Following that, analysts have become more bullish about the prospects of the two companies that have put in a proposal to build an MRT in the city, namely Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd.

Then last week, the chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission (LPTC) said that the technical study on the MRT would be completed by the end of this month.

Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said that following the technical study, LPTC will then present a report to the Government.

However, nothing has so far been said as to whether these reports will be made public. It is therefore hoped that these reports will be made available to all and sundry so that the decision on this massive infrastructure project, which is most likely going to be funded by public monies and built for the benefit of the public, be carried out in the most transparent way.

While it is accepted that the MRT is what is needed to enhance public transport in the city and thereby raise its livability standards, it is also a very expensive proposition.

Hence the decision on the MRT shouldn’t be a hurried one. It is understood that Singapore took about eight years of planning before it embarked on its MRT project.

True, when Singapore built it, the concept of the MRT was still new. This is no longer the case and as such a quicker plan could be inked.

But careful thought should be given to the plans to ensure that the best, most efficient and beneficial plan is chosen.

It should be noted that the technical study being done is on the plan proposed by Gamuda and MMC.

It is good to know that the remit of the technical study looks into how cost efficient the proposed system is. The study is trying to ascertain that for the amount that the MRT is going to cost, how much of connectivity will it bring about and whether its plans are feasible, technically speaking.

It is also good to know that following the technical study, another report will be done, one called a “value management” study. This is where the financial modeling of the project, among others, will be studied.

One assumes that this study will also delve into two key issues that remain unknown in the proposed MRT plan – one, who will actually own the MRT and secondly, who will operate it.

It is understood that the Gamuda-MMC proposal only entails the plans to build the MRT, partly by these companies themselves. It doesn’t clearly state which party will own it (and therefore pay for it) and who will run the system.

Again, it is hoped that the results of the value management study will be made public for the relevant feedback before such an expensive project begins.

The author, Risen Jayaseelan, is deputy news editor at the Star.

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