Najib: We made public transport ‘cool’ again

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak officiates the Annual Public Transport Symposium and Showcase 2017 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur October 23, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today his policies helped make public transportation “cool” again.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman said he considered it one of his proudest moments when a friend told him that it was now considered acceptable to wear a suit and use the Mass Rail Transit system.

“The outcome and reception of the MRT has been tremendous,” Najib said while delivering his keynote address at a public transport symposium organised by the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) here.

“In fact, a friend said to me now it’s considered cool to wear a suit and to travel around the city in the MRT… this is something that I can be proud to say,” the prime minister added.

Najib said his administration made history with the much-anticipated full opening of MRT Line I (Sungai Buloh-Kajang) in July this year, providing direct links to the city centre from the north-western and the south-eastern sector. 

MRT Line 1 which spans a distance of 51km with 31 stations is complemented by 300 MRT feeder buses, connecting commuters to stations and adjacent areas with a fixed fare of RM1.

The BN chairman said the completion of the first MRT line project displayed the country’s prowess as a modern nation capable of delivering highly-technical infrastructure projects.

“Not only were we able to complete and manage this project efficiently, we were also able to complete it ahead of schedule and RM2 billion below budget,” said the prime minister.

“This is, by any standards, an outstanding achievement for any country. One of the main factors contributing to this has been the hard work of thousands of Malaysians employed for the project, especially those at Spad, who successfully made it a reality”.

From July until August, weekly ridership of the MRT Kajang-Sungai Buloh line reached over 800,000 passengers and over one million passengers during the holiday week of August 27 to September 3, government data showed.

Critics, however, claimed the high ridership was likely due to the low promotional fares. Ridership reportedly declined after the campaign ended on August 31.

But Najib has expressed confidence that more people will favour the MRT over private cars in the long run.

“With a capacity to carry 400,000 passengers a day, we are confident that these numbers will certainly grow as more and more people switch to the MRT for their daily commute.

“In fact, even now, I have been getting reports from many people who say they have experienced reduced traffic congestion since the MRT came online,” the BN chairman said.

Spad claimed up to 40,000 cars have gone off the roads daily after the MRT and other rail system improvements were introduced, with more expected in the future.

Malaysia has one of the highest private vehicle ownerships in the world. The Najib government had said it is committed to reducing the figures and to increase public transport share usage.

The country’s public transport model share stood at just above 20 per cent up to 2016, a very low number compared to other developed nations.