Thursday, April 6, 2017

The KL-Klang BRT Line Proposal

I was looking at the empty buses that were running on the elevated BRT Sunway Line that traverses between Bandar Sunway and UEP Subang Jaya when a thought flashed through my mind: “Another white elephant”.

We have many white elephants in Malaysia.

Anyway, lest I digress – I remember reading a March 06, 2017 article in The Edge Malaysia that talked about the viability of the KL-Klang BRT line.

Just like the BRT Sunway Line, the government is turning to the private sector to finance the proposed 34km KL-Klang bus rapid transit line via a concession.

With an estimated cost of RM4 billion – although I am betting that the final price will escalate – the BRT is considered relatively cheap compared with the other public transport infrastructure projects.

Yet, I read that many construction players are balking at the prospect of funding the endeavor themselves because the risks are high and the returns are low.

To recap, the KL-Klang BRT is one of the twelve corridors identified in the Land Public Transport Masterplan back in 2013. It is about building exclusive lanes so that the buses do not lose travel time in traffic congestion.

The said Line is expected to cut journey time from the present 70 minutes to 40 minutes and is envisaged to benefit some 1.9 million commuters in the Klang Valley with a forecast daily ridership of over 400,000.

Again, the numbers don’t mean anything unless they make actual sense.

In fact, SPAD’s Greater KL/Klang Valley Land Public Transport Masterplan had highlighted that the present total daily ridership for rail transport in the Klang Valley is only a mere 464,500.

So as I have said, the numbers don’t sound credible.

We only need to look at the two LRT lines built in KL – STAR LRT and Putra LRT – the operators held 60-year concessions – and yet the government had to bail them out in less than five years due to lower-than-expected ridership. KL Monorail – with a 40-year concession – faced the same sorry fate when it was taken over by government-owned Prasarana in 2007 – four years after it began operating.

Almost ten years after bailing out the monorail project, Prasarana are struggling to turn a profit for all the three lines despite a much-improved ridership.

The mammoth debt of about RM18.36 billion as at December 2015 translates into a gearing of 16.5 times. And the company booked an operating loss of RM227.36 million in FY2015 and a pre-tax loss of RM1.24 billion.

The government has no business managing business! Is it any wonder government-owned businesses are losing money?

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