According to an expert, it seems as though Malaysia’s economic development is being impeded by too many ministries and agencies being involved with, and wanting an influence on, transport planning.
Any large plan is years in the making, which is why poor execution is plain to see as it unfolds. This proves doubly true for the planning of a country’s transportation network, which has to account for so many outside factors including projecting population growth and movement during the arduous construction period and beyond.
Too many ministries spoiling our public transport?
Rosli Azad Khan, a transport consultant with over 30 years of industry experience speaking to Free Malaysia Today, said there are currently three (3) ministries currently involved, seemingly able to exercise their ability to decide transport infrastructure, facilities, services, and policies.
They are: the transport ministry (obviously), the finance ministry, and the works ministry. This fragmentation, according to him, has led to the compromised state of public transportation services.
With the exception of transport planning for Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan being managed by the federal territories ministry, all other city and municipal council matters fall under the local government and housing ministry.
“This kind of structure and set-up is complex and complicated. There is also a low level of efficiency which, in the past, has resulted in self-inflicted problems. The set-up is not effective for long-term planning purposes nor does it help economic development,” said Rosli.
Other examples of redundancy he points to are to be found in the shipping and aviation sectors where port authorities essentially hold no sway in administration or management following the privatisation of all ports in Malaysia.
Similarly, the Malaysia Aviation Commission (Mavcom) plays “a very limited” role in airport planning and operations with nearly all such facilities now falling under the purview of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, which is run by a Finance Ministry that also owns Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), Prasarana (RapidKL etc), MRT Corp, MyHSR (High Speed Rail), and Malaysia Rail Link (MRL) that’s now involved in building the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
Rosli cites political interference as a “major setback” to transport planning, operations, and construction, such was the case with the Klang Valley Double Tracking Phase 2 (KVDT2) project, which was to rehabilitate and expand 265km of railway in the Klang Valley and its surrounding areas.
This project, already underway at the time, was cancelled by the Pakatan Harapan government only to be later reinstated, then cancelled yet again by the Perikatan-Nasional administration.
It’s missteps and neglect toward transportation upkeep and competent long-term planning such as these that have caused the decline in public perception, leading to a majority of Malaysians choosing private vehicles instead of public transportation wherever and whenever possible.
The bungling of the KVDT2 project has led to a suit by the contractor, Dhaya Maju-LTAT, but more tangibly, a sharp decline in ridership from approximately 134,000 commuters daily in 2015 to less than 20,000 a day in 2022.
“Without proper studies, planning considerations, assessment and comprehensive evaluation of travel demand and on how to provide the supply capacity side, the government, it seems, has made poor and rushed ad hoc decisions,” added Rosli.
“Unless (certain) entities are restructured and run entirely by professionals, without any interference by politicians, I can’t see how we could progress to the next level or the desired optimal level of services.”