Prudent spending a must for MRT3

Cost saving measures, such as designing trains stations with less emphasis on the aesthetic value, can be adopted, says expert

by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic credit:

THE revived Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 (MRT3) risks failing to meet the ridership target, while transport experts cautioned against possible corruption and profiteering from the project construction.

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport international president Datuk Ts Abd Radzak Abd Malek said infrastructure development should be supply-driven instead of demand-driven to spur economic activities and growth.

He said modern infrastructure facilities such as MRT3 could be constructed ahead of the ridership demand before it becomes too late and the cost would be a lot higher at the time.

Still, he said the project expenditure must be fiscally prudent and controls should be in place to prevent corruption or abuse of power for private gain.

“I would support the MRT3 project in moving the country forward with an efficient and modern transport system.

“Having said that, the costing must be prudent. We do not want someone to take advantage of the project for private monetary gain. This makes people go against such a project,” Abd Radzak told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

He said cost saving measures can be adopted, such as designing trains stations to be simple with less emphasis on the aesthetic value while keeping the functionality and seamless experience as priorities.

Economically, he said MRT3 would encourage new transit-oriented or transit-assisted developments that will attract new investments along the alignment seen in the case of MRT1.

The construction of the MRT3 project, which was suspended by the previous government, will begin in the second half of this year.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the ministry has given Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) three months to update the studies, which have been conducted previously on the implementation of the project, to be presented to the Cabinet.

Wee said the cost of the project will be decided based on the studies conducted by MRT Corp.

TMR reported yesterday that MRT Corp is considering private funding option to finance some 10% to 30% of the total cost needed to develop the project.

“Right now, we are considering a hybrid financing model either with MRT Corp itself or other industry players. The project is still reliant on government support, but we are trying to help the government,” MRT Corp CEO Datuk Mohd Zarif Hashim told reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, transportation consultant YS Chan said the resumption of the MRT3 project made less sense when MRT1 has failed to achieve its ridership target and MRT2 runs the risk of even fewer passenger volume.

He further said MRT3 may end up becoming a white elephant in the future as the world is shifting to a new way of working and living.

“The world of the future requires less shopping and office space. People would travel more for leisure than commuting to work.

Those who continue to build mega buildings, elevated highways and massive rail networks are still catering to the old world that we have left behind. But most tragically, future generations would have to pay for all the money we are spending now,” Chan told TMR.

He said MRT1 is a proof that it is an overspent project with oversized train stations, while ridership has been below its target from the start.

He added that feeder buses continuously run almost empty most of the time just to get one or two more extra passengers per trip.

A report by Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd stated that the MRT3 development augurs well for the construction sector since the actual rollout could come in early 2022.

The research house estimated the project costs to be in the range of RM20 billion to RM22 billion with one-third of alignment underground.

CGS-CIMB Securities Sdn Bhd analyst Sharizan Rosely said in a report that the overall cost of the MRT3 project could be reduced substantially by 30% to 40% of the total original cost of RM45 billion, mainly attributed to the reduction of certain underground scopes.

The analyst said this could bring the total estimated revised cost to between RM27 billion and RM32 billion.

MRT3 is slated to be a circle line in the Greater Klang Valley area, complementing the MRT1 and MRT2 lines. The average number of daily ridership for MRT1 in 2019 was 200,000.

It dropped to 80,000 for the first six months of 2020 mainly due to the movement restrictions induced by the pandemic.

This is in contrast to a total capacity of 1,200 passengers and a daily ridership of about 400,000 passengers envisioned for MRT1, also known as the Kajang Line.

MRT2, or Putrajaya Line, is expected to have an initial ridership of over 104,000 passengers upon opening of full service.

The first phase of the Putrajaya Line is expected to be completed by July this year and start operations in August.