Why the Opposition is Against the Public Transport Transformation

Efforts in Malaysia to bring about a fundamental transformation of the existing fragmented and relatively dysfunctional public transport system to a comprehensively planned ‘integrated rapid transit’ system, which includes the introduction of bus rapid transit services as a key component, have encountered certain institutionally embedded obstacles.

This paper briefly outlines the nature of these problems, focusing in particular on the difficulties experienced in engaging with, and effectively incorporating, informal minibus-taxi operations which serve a significant segment of the city’s public transport passenger market. It seeks to draw out the main policy implications, as well lessons which might be taken up elsewhere, in other initiatives to address the differentiated mobilities and travel patterns which shape the ‘urban transport divide’ in many cities of the ‘global Metropolis’.

1. The attacks against the Public Transport services by PKR MP Rafizi Ramli is nothing more than to undermine the Public’s confidence towards these successful initiatives.

2. It is no secret that Klang Valley needed to transform and upgrade its Public Transport services in order to become a first world city. So when the government decided in 2010 to initiate on improving Public Transport the Opposition, whom are deemed to dominate urban voters, got scared and planned to run it down at all costs.

3. The Opposition began their Anti-Public Transport initiative in 2010 itself, leading many Resident Associations (RA) to protest any Public Transport development in their neighbourhood. Now however many appreciate the convenience and capital appreciation of their properties.

4. The facts are MRT Corp has been transparent about the contracts awarded to various companies and this resulted in a saving of RM2 billion from the initial estimated costs of RM23 billion. Local companies that participated in the construction benefited from ‘Technological Technical Transfer’ from foreign expert partner companies which would allow for these local companies to complete the remaining lines and bid for other international rail related projects.

5. This is the true success of the Transformation in Public Transport Services. Not only would it improve mobility of people but it managed to build up a many local construction and engineering firms to new heights. Furthermore 130 000 jobs opportunities are created.

6. Such allegations that Prasarana would see major losses if they took over more assets are completely misleading to the public. The Opposition fails to understand the ‘economic and social value’ that companies like Prasarana operate by, which is primarily to provide services to the rakyat. Even services like the London Tube run by TFL still needs subsidies (£3 Billion annual) as the main objective is people mobility and economic multiplier effect for city of London.

7. Any good Public Transport service has to be planned for the long term, which means services currently provided would outweigh current demand. Therefore issue such as initial operational losses are taken into account. Hence the addition of the MRT, Prasarana can expect Public Transport usage to increase and help their cash-flow in the long run.

8. What the Opposition fails to understand is that rail or bus services must continue to function from the very first customer in the morning, to peak rush hour, till the last customer at night, it must fully operate. It cannot choose to only operate at a particular time.

9. The bigger question is what alternative solution has the Opposition brought to solve public transport. Did they promise to provide more buses or rail for the public in the last elections or were they too busy fighting for cheaper cars and making roads toll free.

10. However one thing is clear, attacks from PKR MP Rafizi Ramli is actually an acknowledgement that the Opposition is feeling the heat from the benefits that the rakyat is currently experiencing from the Transformation in Public Transport.

11. Truth is, the more they attack the more the government knows they are on the right track.

The aim of this paper is to examine how the postpolitical era of planning has created both binaries and intersections in the reimaging of transport futures and how the latter precipitates a redefinition of democratic transport prioritisation. Focusing particularly on the point in the transport planning process when urban transport priorities are identified, the paper explores how citizens respond to the inherently political, yet not always democratic, aspects of setting transport investment priorities.

Drawing upon ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews with community campaigners opposing the proposed reformation, this analysis reveals how community-based groups and individual residents alike can evolve beyond focused agitation to garner a spatially dispersed re-politicisation of urban transport priorities.

While the postpolitical framing of infrastructure delivery introduces a binary between state interventionist planning and citizen opposition, it is the mobilisation of action through the spaces of intersection where new political paradigms for transport planning are created.

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