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Graphic courtesy of The Star

The first rail line was opened in 1885 running between Port Weld and Taiping.  The line to the east coast running between Gemas and Tumpat was only completed in 1931, by passing major towns such as Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu.

For decades after that there was no real growth in terms of communications in the east coast.

As a punishment to the people of the east coast for not voting in the Barisan Nasional, aid to Kelantan was curbed and was changed into the form of ‘Wang Ihsan‘ in 1990, and the East Coast Highway terminated near Kuantan because Barisan Nasional was ousted by the people of Terengganu in 1999.

Najib Razak changed all that.

Phase 3 of the East Coast Highway which will terminate at Kota Bharu will commence during the 11th Malaysian Plan (2016-2020), as well as the East Coast Rail Link, a new rail link cutting through green fields.

The first phase will see the Klang Valley connected to Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu in the second phase and Kota Bharu and Wakaf Bharu in the third and final phase.


Announcing at the handover ceremony of the Ganchong Water Treatment Plant, he said that the GDP of the state of Pahang would increase by 1.5 percent when the ECRL comes online.

The Opposition as usual is opposed to anything that is good for the people if it comes from the government.

PAN’s Mujahid Yusof Rawa, for instance, questioned how it will benefit the local economy – and you do not need to be a member of Parliament let alone a rocket scientist to figure out the answer.

The ECRL will act as a land bridge for goods coming from the west coast going to especially Shenzen in China through Kuantan port, and similarly goods from the east coast get sent to the Middle East and India through Port Klang.

This land bridge would also allow goods from the eastern part of the globe be sent to the western part through these two ports without having to circumnavigate the Singapore strait.

This cuts down the over-reliance on the Strait of Malacca. Today, more than 80 percent of China’s energy needs pass through that narrow waterway.

So if you imagine it takes just four hours for goods to be transported by a lorry from Kota Bharu to Port Klang using the ECRL as compared to seven hours using the Gua Musang way or nine hours via the East Coast highway, you would be able to imagine the kind of economic growth the east coast states would stand to benefit from the ECRL.

No longer would SME or heavy industries have to be centred in the Klang Valley where the costs of land and living are far higher compared to in Kelantan and Terengganu. More jobs would be created and the luxury gap lessened tremendously.

The time for goods to be transported from Shenzen to Port Klang would be 30 hours lesser than having to sail them around Singapore.

Cost issues aside, this new network will create new alternative routes to boost trade for Asean, with Malaysia as the base; and why this has to be taken seriously is because the Chinese have a direct interest in the (Kuantan) port and the rail link,” said Mr G. Durairaj, managing director of maritime and logistics consultancy PortsWorld.

Already Kuantan port is home to several petrochemical companies such as the BASF-PETRONAS Chemicals. 

The port has also attracted RM8.9 billion worrh of investments including a RM3.5 billion steel facility.

The integrated steel mill will occupy a 287ha site – half the size of Singapore’s Sentosa island – and have an annual production of 3.5 million tonnes.

Imagine the size of investments that the ECRL could bring into the east coast states. Would you now question the benefits the ECRL would bring?

Long before most netizens and majority of the current workforce were born, DAP’s Emperor Lim Kit Siang complained on 1st September 1977 about the lack of public transport and increase in fares by now-defunct well-known bus company, Sri Jaya.  Four days later, he called for the resignation of both Ganie Gilong of Sabah who was the Transport Minister, and Dr Goh Cheng Teik who was the Deputy Transport Minister to resign.

Political and monetary instabilities as a result of the international monetary crises in the early 1970s and the oil crisis in late 1973 contributed to the worldwide recession, stagflation and very slow recovery.  Consumer Price Index (1967 = 100) jumped by 10.5 percent in 1973 and 17.4 percent the following year. In 1977 it was down to 4.7 percent, the lowest since 1973, and the CPI figure never went down further until 1984.

Money, Income and Prices of Malaysia (1966-89) from the book The Monetary and Banking Development of Singapore and Malaysia by Sheng-Yi Lee

It was a time when Malaysians could hardly afford anything. In order to assist the rakyat, Tun Abdul Razak set up the Restoran Rakyat in August 1973. It was where a nasi lemak breakfast would cost only 20 sen and a simple lunch of rice, fish curry and vegetables would cost only 80 sen.  Of course, 20 sen those days is like RM2.00 of today but any balanced meal today that costs less than RM10.00 per plate is greatly welcomed.

The Restoran Rakyat, near today’s Dataran Merdeka – Tun Razak’s way of helping the rakyat in KL to overcome inflation (courtesy of harithsidek.blogspot.com)

Also introduced by Tun Razak was the BMW – Bas Mini Wilayah, in September 1975.  The fare to any destination was 40 sen then and was only increased to 50 sen in 1991 and 60 sen two years later.  The BMW services were discontinued in July 1998 when it was replaced by Intrakota and subsequently RapidKL in 2005.

The notorious BMW – BERNAMA Images/Paul Tan

Today, as a result of a great foresight by the current government, land public transport and infrastructure have improved in leaps and bounds.  According to a research report published on the 4th April 2017 by the Financial Times, Malaysia’s transport users get the best deals in ASEAN.

Graphs comparing Malaysia and the rest of the ASEAN-5 in terms of spending on transport as well as the WEF’s ranking for the ASEAN-5 transportation infrastructure (Financial Times)

The graph shows that Malaysian commuters spend about USD12 per day on commuting as opposed to Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines where commuting could cost up to USD20 per day, the only exception being Thailand where it could get to USD15 per day.

Malaysia is also ranked in the Top 20 from 138 nations in terms of transportation infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum.

Malaysian spending on transportation rose to 0.7 percent of the GDP in 2016 compared to 2015, and the Financial Times research report attributes this to Prime Minister Najib Razak who continues to make infrastructure a key priority.

While the completion of the MRT SBK (Sungai Buloh-Kajang) Line 1 targetted for July 2017 and the construction of the MRT SSP (Sungai Buloh-Putrajaya) Line 2 and LRT 3 now taking place, urban and suburban dwellers in the Klang Valley can expect a much economical and more integrated mode of getting around, while feeder services such as the ETS, KTM Komuter, and the soon-to-be-expected HSR and double-tracking projects will allow growth in other areas and allow for cross-country commuting to and from work.

Projects like the ECRL and the Pan-Borneo highway will provide for the growth and availability of jobs not only in the urban areas but also in greenfields as well as pockets of rural towns where meaningful economic activities have thus far eluded.

With a projected population of 32.5 million by 2030, elaborate and efficient land public transport systems must be in place to ensure efficient mobility within and between spatial conurbations across Malaysia while the introduced National Land Public Transport Master Plan (NLPTMP) will ensure continual improvements and additions are made to the land public transport systems.

Malaysians should be thankful that plans have been made to improve transportation infrastructure instead of constantly complaining.

Another promise delivered, another history made.

Today, Phase One of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line service comes online.

This service plies between the Sungai Buloh KTM station and the Semantan station (across from UOA Jalan Semantan) will run for free for a month until the 16th January 2016.


The project will be completed earlier than planned at RM2 billion less than the RM23 billion projected.

This is RM77 billion less than what was blurted out by PKR’s habitual and court-proven liar, Rafizi Ramli.


Once completed in April 2017, the MRT Line 1 will connect suburban areas with the urban networks servicing the city of Kuala Lumpur such as the LRT and KL Monorail.

Prime Minister Najib Razak also made it a project term that there would be Bumiputera participation in all aspects of the project.

While previous administrations emphasised on 30 percent Bumiputera participation, Najib Razak through MRT Corporation ensured a minimum of 50 percent Bumiputera participation in the civil elevated works (viaducts and stations).

Only in the underground works (tunneling and stations) as well as non-civil works (systems and integration) where foreign expertise is needed, Bumiputera participation must be at 30 percent or higher through joint-venture companies to ensure that technology knowledge-transfer takes place.

I must make mention of two things. I was fortunate to have spent a large chunk of my time in the MRT project under the tutelage of Michael Harfoot, a Welsh resident of Hong Kong, who is very knowledgeable in the field of urban railway construction.

Mr Harfoot remains one of the rare Chief Resident Engineers who could do and read as-built drawings without the use of computer aids. He also imparts knowledge to the local engineers with much zest.

Michael Harfoot (second from right) taking his staff on an MRT ride today


Secondly, the project would not have succeeded without the unenviable tasks of communicating with the public,especially with stakeholders – facing the brunt of public anger and so on.

Datuk Najmuddin Abdullah and his team from the Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Relations division had done very well in ensuring that things are communicated to and from the public.

Datuk Najmuddin is no stranger to the management of crises. He handled the communications during the MH370 and MH17 tragedies.

We should also not forget the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indonesian workers who toiled to complete this project under the hot sun, doing work that no Malaysian would, and pouring rain, braving snake bites and dengue fever, who are forever thankful that Malaysia is still the land of milk and honey for them and the families that they feed.

If this country is truly going down the drains, they would have quit their job and moved elsewhere.

I look forward to taking my first train up to Putrajaya in ten years’ time.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident that the 350-kilometre high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore would bring both countries even closer together.

Facing a technical recession where the economy is more or less stagnant, Lee Hsien Loong has constantly reminded small and medium enterprises in Singapore to expand to neighbouring countries.

Hence, the HSR is truly important for Singapore to see that the project is completed within the stipulated ten-year period.

For Malaysia, it would definitely boost tourism as it opens up lesser known towns on the southwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia to tourists from Singapore.

As a matter of fact, Singapore’s Straits Times has printed a guide on the places that could be visited once the HSR is in operation.

Not only that, as with the rail system run by the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM), areas surrounding the HSR link would definitely see an increase in both development and prosperity as connectivity improves.

While the 10-year timeframe is a “relatively short period of time” given the size and complexity of the project, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he is committed to meeting the deadline.

We have to work very closely together and be very focused, and we must overcome all the challenges as we move ahead,” he said.
Although Malaysia and Singapore are both different countries, they share a common history. Many from both countries are related and cross-border marriages are rife.

Perhaps Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has summed it all in the best way: “Our relationship with Malaysia is strong and flourishing. We are bound by history, kinship, culture and strong people-to-people ties.”

There is no doubt that the people from both countries would benefit from this single link.

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FAQ ISU KENAIKAN KADAR TOL   
SOALAN : MENGAPAKAH PENGUMUMAN KENAIKAN KADAR TOL DIBUAT OLEH SYARIKAT KONSESI?   

Pengumuman mengenai kadar tol yang baru di 18 lebuh raya tol bermula 15 Oktober 2015 telah dibuat sendiri oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya yang berkaitan memandangkan mereka mempunyai tanggungjawab untuk menguruskan lebuh raya masing-masing untuk satu tempoh masa berdasarkan Perjanjian Konsesi yang ditandatangani.     

  
SOALAN : ADAKAH MELALUI PERJANJIAN KONSESI (CA) SESUATU KADAR TOL PERLU DINAIKKAN?   

Didalam Perjanjian Konsesi yang ditandatangani, ada beberapa komponen seperti jadual kadar tol sepanjang tempoh konsesi di mana penentuan kadar tol dan tempoh kenaikan kadar tol adalah mengambil kira kos operasi, penyenggaraan, unjuran trafik dan kos pembiayaan kewangan (loan repayment).  Atas faktor-faktor inilah, tempoh kenaikan kadar tol perlu dikaji secara puratanya di antara 3 hingga 5 tahun.   Oleh yang demikian, kenaikan kadar tol adalah diperlukan oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi yang terlibat untuk membolehkan mereka menampung kos-kos operasi dan penyenggaraan di lebuh raya masing-masing demi memastikan keselamatan dan keselesaan pemanduan yang optimum.  

  
 SOALAN : APAKAH PERKARA YANG DIAMBIL KIRA KERAJAAN DALAM MEMBUAT KEPUTUSAN KADAR KENAIKAN TOL PADA TAHUN 2015?  

 Bagi tahun 2015, kenaikan kadar tol telah dikaji dengan teliti dengan mengambil kira beberapa parameter. Antara parameter yang telah digunakan adalah penstrukturan semula dasar subsidi nasional di mana kenaikan kadar tol ini dapat menjimatkan perbelanjaan Kerajaan yang dianggarkan sebanyak RM580 juta yang seterusnya boleh digunakan untuk tujuan pembangunan lain yang lebih memerlukan. 
SOALAN : APAKAH KESAN KENAIKAN TOL KEPADA KEWANGAN KERAJAAN ?   

Kenaikan kadar tol mulai 15 Oktober 2015 seperti yang diumumkan oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya perlu dilihat dari segi penjimatan kepada kewangan negara. Setiap tahun, Kerajaan perlu membayar pampasan penangguhan kenaikan kadar tol kepada syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya sekiranya kadar tol tidak dinaikkan. Dalam hal ini, Kerajaan perlu membayar pampasan yang dianggarkan sebanyak RM580 juta kepada syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya sekiranya kadar tol tidak dinaikkan pada tahun 2015. Penjimatan sebanyak RM580 juta ini boleh digunakan untuk membiayai perkara-perkara seperti berikut:   penurapan semula 380km jalan-jalan sediada; pembinaan sebanyak 380 buah jejantas baru; pembinaan 19 jambatan baru; dan pembinaan 58 sekolah rendah yang baru.   Kenaikan kadar tol adalah salah satu langkah awal yang perlu diambil oleh Kerajaan untuk mengawal bilangan kenderaan yang masuk ke Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Sekiranya langkah ini tidak dilaksanakan, ianya dikhuatiri akan menyebabkan kesesakan yang agak kritikal di Kuala Lumpur.   

  
SOALAN : APAKAH KEBAIKAN PENJIMATAN PERBELANJAAN KERAJAAN HASIL DARIPADA KENAIKAN KADAR TOL?   

Melalui penstrukturan semula dasar subsidi ini, Kerajaan dapat menumpukan perhatian dalam membangunkan ekonomi negara yang pada akhirnya akan memanfaatkan rakyat sekalian.   
SOALAN : APAKAH TINDAKAN MITIGASI OLEH KERAJAAN DALAM MENGURANGKAN KESAN KENAIKAN TOL KEPADA RAKYAT DI BANDAR ? DAN APAKAH SOLUSI UNTUK RAKYAT YANG MEMBAYAR TOL NAMUN MASIH TERPERANGKAP DENGAN KESESAKAN JALANRAYA?   

Pemantapan sistem pengangkutan awam darat adalah antara usaha Kerajaan untuk mengurangkan kesan kenaikan tol ini dengan menggalakkan pengguna beralih kepada penggunaan pengangkutan awam.  Ini kerana kadar tol untuk bas tidak akan dinaikkan dan akan kekal seperti mana sekarang.   Rakyat mampu memperolehi penjimatan untuk urusan seharian mereka apabila mereka tidak perlu mengeluarkan perbelanjaan tambahan untuk tol, kos bahanapi serta mampu meminimakan risiko kemungkinan berlakunya kemalangan akibat sikap pemandu di jalanraya.   Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) melalui Government Trasnformation Programme : NKRA Urban Public Transport mempunyai perancangan jangka panjang dalam meningkatkan sistem pengangkutan awam darat. Tiga (3) bentuk approach telah dikenal pasti iaitu:     pembangunan sistem rel (MRT, LRT & monorel); pembangunan hub pengangkutan awam darat (hub utara di Gombak, hub selatan di Bandar Tasik Selatan dan hub utara di Sungai Buloh); dan pembangunan sistem pengangkutan awam seperti teksi dan GoKL.   Usaha ini mampu mengurangkan kesesakan di bandar besar seperti Kuala Lumpur.   Pembinaan Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) juga adalah salah satu aspek yang dikenal pasti untuk mengurangkan kesesakan di kawasan-kawasan yang mempunyai tahap kepadatan penduduk yang tinggi. Fasa pertama yang menghubungkan kawasan Subang, USJ dan Sunway telah siap dan buat masa ini, ridership BRT di kawasan tersebut sedang meningkat.   Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) telah membina dua (2) kawasan park-ride di Stesen LRT Sungai Besi dan Bandar Salak Selatan bagi kemudahan pengguna-pengguna LRT yang ingin ke bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Satu lagi kemudahan park-ride sedang dibina oleh DBKL berdekatan dengan Taman Segar, Cheras untuk kegunaan para pengguna MRT.   Oleh yang demikian, Kerajaan berharap agar usaha penambahbaikan  sistem pengangkutan awam darat ini mampu menyediakan prasarana yang boleh membantu mengurangkan beban perbelanjaan dan kos sara hidup atau sebagai alternatif kenaikan kadar tol di lebuh raya-lebuh raya.     

  
SOALAN : APAKAH USAHA KERAJAAN MENGURANGKAN BEBAN KEWANGAN PENGGUNA LEBUH RAYA?   

Kerajaan pada dasarnya prihatin terhadap peningkatan kos sara hidup rakyat. Oleh yang demikian, beberapa pendekatan telah diperkenalkan oleh Kerajaan untuk mengurangkan kos sara hidup rakyat yang berkaitan dengan kadar tol. Antara pendekatan yang telah diambil oleh Kerajaan adalah seperti berikut: Penutupan Awal dan Pemansuhan Kutipan Tol   Sejak 1993, Kerajaan telah melaksanakan penutupan serta pemansuhan kutipan tol di lapan (8) lokasi seperti berikut :   11 Januari 1993 – penutupan Plaza Tol Slim River, Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS) 1 Mac 2004 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Plaza Tol Senai, Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS); 18 Mac 2004 – Penutupan awal plaza tol di Jalan Pahang, Lebuhraya Hubungan Timur Barat (Metramac) (Tarikh sebenar penutupan mengikut perjanjian konsesi adalah  pada 31 Mac 2004); 14 Februari 2009 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Plaza Tol PJS2 (arah Kuala Lumpur), Lebuhraya Baru Pantai (NPE); 24 Februari 2009 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol Plaza Tol Salak Jaya di Lebuhraya Sungai Besi (BESRAYA);   21 Disember 2009 – Penutupan awal Plaza Tol Teluk Kapas, Lebuhraya Pintas Selat Klang Utara (NNKSB) (Tarikh sebenar penutupan mengikut perjanjian konsesi adalah pada 29 Disember 2009); 16 Mei 2011- Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Lebuhraya Hubungan Timur Barat (Metramac); dan 2 Mac 2012 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di laluan ke Kuala Lumpur, Plaza Tol Batu 9 dan laluan Ke Kajang, Plaza Tol Batu 11, Lebuhraya Cheras – Kajang (GRANDSAGA).      Pengurangan Kadar Tol   Sehingga kini, pengurangan kadar tol telah dilaksanakan di tiga lebuh raya, seperti berikut:   1 September 2007 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Plaza Tol Sungai Nyior, Lebuhraya Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), dari RM0.90 ke RM0.50 sejak tahun 2007; 18 Februari 2011 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Plaza Tol PJS2 (arah Subang), Lebuhraya Baru Pantai (NPE) bagi kenderaan Kelas 1 dari RM1.60 ke RM1.00 sejak tahun 2011; dan 15 Januari 2013 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Lebuhraya Shah Alam (KESAS) bagi kenderaan Kelas 1 dari RM2.20 ke RM2.00 bagi tempoh 2013 hingga 2015.    Penstrukturan Semula Kenaikan Kadar Tol   Kerajaan juga pada masa yang sama telah melaksanakan penstrukturan semula kenaikan kadar tol di lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian syarikat Plus Expressways Berhad (PEB) dan Kumpulan MTD. Penstrukturan ini dilaksanakan melalui tiada kenaikan tol bagi lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian PEB untuk tempoh dari 2011 hingga 2015. Manakala, bagi lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian Kumpulan MTD pula, tiada kenaikan tol dari tempoh 2011 hingga 2014.   Lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian PEB yang terlibat adalah seperti berikut:   Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS); Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan Hubungan Tengah (ELITE); Lebuhraya Laluan Kedua Malaysia


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