Friday, August 22, 2008

KTMB (Part 2)- Questions for KTM and Government

(Train station at Sungkai, Perak)

(Train station at Tapah Road, Perak. Photo taken in August 2008)

It has been more than 15 years since I last took a ride with KTM from Tapah Road to Kuala Lumpur. There seems to be more activities back in the 80s and early 90s at Tapah Road’s station when the Kopitiam was still in operation. There were also locals selling homemade packed nasi lemak within the train station.

Thousands if not millions have been spent to modernize and to renovate the KTM Tapah Road station over the past few years. In fact, the entire station is being torn down with the main building being shifted by approx. 50 meters.

Behind this massive structural facelift, behind these modernization efforts, has KTM actually improve or rot to the core?

In addition to my earlier remark on accountability in KTM, here are additional questions for the KTM and the government:

1. How much was spent for the new station in Sungkai and Tapah Road?
2. How many people benefit or will benefit out of this massive facelift?
3. What is the utility rate of these stations? How many passenger trains stop-by these stations per day?
4. How much to upkeep these stations?
5. Was the project to build new stations done on competitive open tender basis?
6. Should it be smaller and cheaper?
7. Why spend billion without plans to buy carrier? Why having these stations for years before getting more carriers?

8. Why was the double track from Ipoh to Padang Besar, a RM 12.5 billion (USD 3.8 billion) project given to Gamuda without competitive tender?
9. How about spliting the project to two contractors i.e., Ipoh to Penang one contrator while Penang to Padang Besar to another company?
10. How many people will benefit from Ipoh-Padang Besar project? Do we need it?
11. How about Ipoh to Penang first?

12. Should we spend RM 12.5 billion or less to improve existing system and services, such as to buy more new carrier instead of the Ipoh-Padang Besar project?
13. When will KTM turn around and what are the programs in place?
14. What are KTM medium to long term plans to bring it out of losses?
15. What are the marketing programs or strategy?

Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM)-Part 1. Bad Rail or Bad Management?

“Rail Bad!” was today’s headline in the New Straits Times (NST) after the Prime Minister (PM)’s little experience with the commuter service.

He arrived at the Serdang Komuter KTM s at 8:15 a.m. but unable to get on board the first train because it was packed. The next train was 15 minutes later. He was right to express dissatisfaction over KTM performance which was obviously not up to expectation. The PM went on and pledged “I will strive for improvements. I will propose changes”. I am very certain he will be furious had he tried the Komuter service during rainy season where train service can be delayed up to an hour during peak hour.

There are indeed many changes and room for improvements in the KTM. The first change the PM should adopt is to replace Lim Ah Lek, as the chairman of KTM with someone who has no rail-road experience. He may be a successful politician, who was also a former cabinet minister, but he has proven ineffective based on KTM performances and results during his leadership. Lim Ah Lek must be answerable for the poor performances and losses of KTM.

The PM should not forget that KTM has at least 2 major safety incidents during the past four months with at least two fatalities. Why was the safety inspector not suspended? Why was no-one accountable for it? This portrays serious lack of accountability in KTM top-down, from the chairman of the board down to the operators.

As for KTM Komuter, they should provide train service at least every 10 minutes instead of 15 minutes during peak hours and should strive for every 5 minutes by 2010. If our country is fond of comparing fuel prices with countries such as Singapore, Japan, Korea and etc., we should be bold enough to measure up the train services of those countries. In Singapore, train runs at least 4 minutes during peak hours while in Moscow, Russia, train arrives every minute and sometimes every 50 seconds during peak period.

Will the PM going to walk the talk this time or just another lip service?