I READ with interest Cost concern in double tracking project (The Star, Nov 5).
Rail development has been given low priority in terms of transport infrastructure since Merdeka, and the proposal by Gamuda MMC is a welcome development to improve the efficiency of KTM.
It will certainly offer potential for expansion of rail freight transportation in the country. The current single track system is simply outdated and slow. It is choked and cannot be further enhanced even with improved rolling stock.
The current system restricts speed of trains and limits hauling capacity. Journeys between Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur take well over nine hours and so much quality time is wasted on the tracks.
With Malaysia emerging as one of the top 20 trading nation in the world, an efficient multi-modal transport system is imperative to facilitate its booming trade.
Malaysia needs to have in place an efficient transport infrastructure to enhance its competitive advantage and the weak link here is rail.
Malaysia has an excellent maritime infrastructure but it is poorly integrated by the current single track rail system. Rail development is not in tandem with port developments.
A good rail system will enhance the ports land connectivity by extending its geographical reach in the country and beyond into the neighbouring countries.
Many multinational companies are now looking into railway as an alternative mode of transportation to move their bulk consignment. Therefore, Gamuda MMCs proposal to complete the second leg between Ipoh and Padang Besar is good news. No time should be wasted as building costs have escalated.
The double tracking will have a direct positive impact on the NCER and also revitalise the rural communities by creating jobs.
Similarly, the southern double tracking undertaken by Ircon between Seremban and further south should progress fast. It will further enhance the delivery system to spearhead the IDR.
A single high-powered locomotive can haul almost a hundred TEUs, which means a hundred trucks less on the road, and roads would be safer for travel.
Posted: 28/11/2007 12:46 pm Post subject: เรื่องชวนบ่นเกี่ยวกับ KTMB
On wrong track over rail services
The Star - 28 Nov 2007
KTM has not awoken to the opportunities of attracting tourists on its scenic railway system. Where Asians shun the use of country passenger rail because it is slow and outdated, Western tourists flock to use rail for these very same reasons!
Witness the popularity of tourist rail in countries like America, the UK and Australia where young and old love to experience the steam and diesel services of a past era.
Within Malaysia, witness the growing popularity of the recently upgraded Borneo rail route, a mixture of tourist and commercial rail services.
Currently, apart from the KL-Singapore service, and the local jungle trains on the east coast, all passenger rail services operate at night. Tourists do not want to sleep through the fascinating jungle foliage, the flora and fauna and the village life that passes by their carriage window.
Malaysian rail scheduling is on the wrong track. Introduce some intercity day services that cater for the tourist.
Spillover effect of rail project will be widespread
The Star - 15 December 2007
NEWS ANALYSIS BY FINTAN NG
ITS finally happening. Construction will commence on the 329km northern portion of the electrified double-tracking railway project from Ipoh to Padang Besar by the first half of next year.
This comes after a four-year delay when it was first awarded to a joint venture between Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd.
This time around, the joint venture has been awarded a package worth RM12.5bil on the progressive payment method instead of through private finance initiative as envisaged earlier.
At a press conference after Gamudas AGM yesterday, group managing director Datuk Lin Yun Ling said the project would have a multiplier effect on the economy of the northern region of the peninsula.
The award comes at a time of high fuel and building material prices and after the launch of the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) in July.
The cost of the project has been revised upwards from RM8.5bil when it was first awarded in 2003 due to the higher prices.
Lin said the Public Works Departments tender price index had increased 67% in the four years since the project was first awarded.
He said the project could not be justified on a purely commercial basis.
The main goal is more socio-economic than commercial because to my knowledge, no railway project in the world is commercially viable.
In most cases, the government will fund the construction and then the private sector will operate it and receive the revenue via the transport of passengers and freight, Lin said.
Nevertheless, judging from the figures disclosed, the construction sector would be set for an exciting five years. During this period, as much as RM6bil would be spent on new plants where building materials and machinery would be produced, and that does not include the raw materials such as steel, cement and aggregates needed for the project.
Earlier reports and equity analysts have noted the spillover effects to different sectors of the economy, which Gamuda, in a press release later yesterday afternoon, said would amount to an estimated RM8bil in jobs for local consultants, contractors and suppliers.
It added that the projected gross domestic product growth of the states of Kedah, Penang, Perak and Perlis would be boosted to 8% from 6% while the completion of the project would also boost Penangs port facilities as well as help businesses located in the region.
Another reported impact is the potential fuel savings from fewer passenger and freight transportation on the roads. Lin said there was potentially RM150bil in savings from petrol and diesel over 30 years based on crude oil price of US$60 per barrel.
In a press statement, MMC group chief executive Feizal Ali said the project complemented the NCERs vision of becoming a logistics hub.
He added that once completed, the project would complement other portions of the peninsulas double-tracking railway system and might one day be part of a Trans-Asia line, linking Kunming in China to Singapore.
Posted: 21/12/2007 11:00 am Post subject: วิจารณ์โครงการทางคู่ อิโปห์ - ปาดังเบซาร์
Malaysias Big Money Railroad Hustle
by Kim Quek
(Kim Quek comments regularly on Malaysian affairs)
Asia Sentinel 20 December 2007
The government revives a white elephant project for a politically connected construction firm
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who came to office vowing to stop a wide range of money-swallowing projects put in place by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has caved in to political pressure and reinstates several of them. Now, it appears he is restarting what may be the biggest of them all, a massively expensive rail project tied to a well-connected construction firm that seems to have little hope of recouping its investment.
The government has approved the no-bid contract with Gamuda-MMC for RM 12.5 billion (US$3.73 billion) to double-track the countrys main north-south railway line, a 329 km run from the central city of Ipoh to the Thai border. The MMC part of the consortium is a construction company backed by Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, a long-time backer and fundraiser for UMNO, the largest party in the countrys ruling Barisan National coalition.
Malayan Railways Ltd serves the Malaysian Peninsula with a network of 1,700 km of railways, but it earned only RM 288 million in transportation revenues in 2006, made up as follows:
Intercity services RM 71 million
Commuter services in Kuala Lumpur areas RM 85 million
Freight services RM 132 million
Total RM 288 million
Excluding the commuter services in Kuala Lumpur, the total transportation revenue is RM203 million from a network of 1,525 km of railways. Apportioning 30 percent of this revenue to the Ipoh-border sector only 22 percent of the 1525 km network the corresponding revenue is RM60 million.
Granted that traffic volume would increase substantially after completion of the double-tracking project, there is still a limit. Assuming generous seven-fold revenue growth, future annual revenue for this sector could could be RM 420 million, just 3.3 percent of the initial capital investment of RM 12.5 billion. Such a meager return means that the project would have little significant impact on the economy or transportation in this sector after completion.
But every family in Malaysia would have to shoulder an average burden of RM 2,500 to pay for this folly. If this money were spent for other purposes, the government could complete any one of the following feats:
Plant 1.2 million hectares of mature oil palm capable of generating annual revenues of RM 10 billion (5 million tons of palm oil @ RM 2,000 per ton), or
Build 400,000 low cost housing units, capable of housing to 2 million people, or Establish 100 medium sized institutions of higher learning, capable of taking in 300,000 students for tertiary education, or
Build 1,200 km of expressways.
The contrast in returns between the double-tracking project and any of the alternatives should indicate that this project is a very low priority. With the country still short of funds to address many social-economic needs, why do this? The circumstances are troubling.
First, there has never been a proper cost/benefit analysis. For a project this large this omission is shocking, but then the cabinet was likely aware that the proposition could not have survived even a preliminary round of analysis.
Second, the project has never been properly discussed in the cabinet neither during Mahathirs reign, when the contract was first dubiously awarded to Gamuda-MMC in October 2003 before being shelved in December 2003 after Mahathir left office, nor during Abdullahs premiership when it was revived in March 2007.
Third, it was the Cabinet Committee on Public Transport not the cabinet itself which resurrected the project and awarded the contract to the same contractor in a subcommittee meeting held on March 16, 2007 chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who also made the announcement. That such an important project should have been left in the hands of Najibs subcommittee reflects Abdullahs weakness as well as a serious flaw in the decision-making process.
Fourth, no open tender was called. The decision to re-award the contract to Gamuda-MMC was made even before prices were known to the government, thus weakening the latters bargaining position and throwing the door wide open for collusion and corruption. What happened to Abdullahs promises of open tenders, transparency and accountability?
Fifth, the announcement on the official award of this contract with a finalized price was left to the contractor, who also spoke at length on the projects economic justification, while the government kept silent. Is it the contractors business to justify public expenditures? Shouldnt that be the responsibility of cabinet ministers? Shouldnt the ministers have appeared to bask in the glory of launching such a project?
Noting the minuscule projected return in relation to the huge capital layout, a series of questions beg for answers. Why did former premier Mahathir Mohammad push for the double-tracking project so urgently days before he stepped down on in October 2003? The contract then was for the construction of both the northern Ipoh-Padang sector and the southern Seremban-Johor Bahru sector for a total contract sum of RM 14.5 billion.
Having rightly shelved the project in December 2003 due to its low priority, why did Abdullah revived it in March 2007? Finding no compelling economic or social rationale, what conclusion can we draw other than to attribute the motivation to base greed both on the part of the giver and the recipient of the contract?
Posted: 08/01/2008 9:46 am Post subject: เริ่มโครงการทางคู่ เซเรมบัน - ชุมทางเกมัส
India's IRCON Bags Malaysian Rail Contract For $1 Bln.
(RTTNews) - Monday, the media reported that India's IRCON International bagged an order for $1 billion for construction of a double track line in Malaysia.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Najib Razak, said that the 3.45 million-ringgit project would involve construction of track linking Seremban and Gemas. The announcement coincided with the two-day visit of Indian Defence Minister, A.K.Antony to Malaysia.
Ticket machines: No more excuses, RapidKL
By : A.K., Petaling Jaya
New Strait Times - 14 Jan 2008
ON Jan 5 at 3pm, four out of the six ticket machines at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre RapidKL station were out of order. There were long lines at the two working machines and the ticket counter. What puzzles me is why RapidKL allows this to happen every weekend without fail.
Even on weekdays, the ticket machines are down. Why wait until four machines are down before calling the technician?
When it is crowded, one machine down is bad enough, let alone four. This is an unacceptable situation.
I understand that the trouble starts when the machines are full. It is therefore even more important for station employees to monitor the machines regularly to ensure that the machines are cleared quickly. All ticket machines need to be in proper working condition at all times.
I have called RapidKL's customer service centre to suggest that they station technicians at the KLCC, KL Sentral and other busy stations permanently to clear the machines, especially during weekends, but obviously this is not happening.
This is the only way to ensure that the machines are cleared quickly, instead of waiting for technicians to arrive.
It is not fair to make passengers stand in long lines every week, either because the employees have not been monitoring the machines or they are waiting for the technicians.
The ticket machines are not user-friendly at all. Even when working, they reject either notes or coins.
It is common to see the notes not accepted message on the machines. Then when we use coins, the machines reject them.
One has to move to another machine and queue again to buy a ticket. I have seen confused locals and tourists struggling to use the machines because it only accepts one note.
RapidKL is taking too long to upgrade the ticket machines to accept multiple notes and issue multiple tickets. RapidKL should make the KLCC station a priority during the upgrade.
KLCC is frequented by local and foreign tourists. When machines break down and they have to wait in long lines, it gives a bad impression especially during Visit Malaysia Year.
I urge the RapidKL management to visit the KLCC and KL Sentral stations during weekends to see and fully understand the challenges that we face every week.
The problems have gone on for way too long.
We the passengers deserve better. No more apologies, excuses, promises and no point in asking passengers to give suggestions and file reports if nothing is done.
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