Interview: Mohd Azharuddin

What will be the impact of the recently approved mass rapid transit (MRT) line two, which will run between Sungai Buloh and Putrajaya?

MOHD AZHARUDDIN: Line two will be a major indication of the government’s commitment to public transport due to the resources that are being committed to its construction. It links up to key areas with high population density, and it will help to develop new areas of growth. There are also many areas along the corridor that hold real potential for growth, not just within the property sector but across other sectors as well. Eventually we will need to work on line three, which is important because it provides connectivity across the rail lines within Greater Kuala Lumpur. Upon their completion lines one and two, the light rapid transit (LRT) and all other significant lines will be connected in a loop. With the kind of investments that Malaysia is making, Kuala Lumpur will have a railway per-km ratio as high as Singapore’s. Based on these upcoming developments, we are confident of meeting our modal share target of 40% by 2030. In fact if you look back just five to 10 years ago there were no MRT lines one and two or project plants for LRT three, so all of these are key achievements for Malaysia.

How are authorities approaching the introduction of ride-sharing apps such as Uber?

AZHARUDDIN: All countries are grappling with the phenomenon of ride-sharing services, and Malaysia is no different. What makes it more challenging for us is our lacklustre taxi system. Uber and GrabCar have consequently picked up the slack, but as it is, our existing laws still apply to these services and, technically speaking, if a driver doesn’t have a public service vehicle licence, or the car is not sufficiently certified, they cannot legally work in such a capacity. We are looking closely both at our current laws and at the legislation of countries that have successfully regulated such services to see how we can move forward.

What is being done to enhance Kuala Lumpur’s public transport ridership?

AZHARUDDIN: In the next two to five years, numbers will increase significantly due to LRT extension and expansion, the opening of the MRT by 2017, the revamping of our bus network, expansion of our feeder bus fleet, and dramatic improvement in first- and last-mile connectivity. We’re also looking to improve our taxi services. It’s an issue that the SPAD is working on with its stakeholders, and we are hopeful we that will find a solution. It is not that people do not want to take public transport, but rather it is the difficulty that many face in getting from their homes to the nearest rail station, which is keeping them back One of our critical focuses will be ensuring bus and taxi services are more efficient, reliable and easier to access through efficient journey planners, which ensure that people can plot their trip effectively. What is also important is first- and last-mile connectivity, and the government is also investing in ensuring that sufficient feeder buses connect neighbourhoods and housing developments to the nearest rail station at an appropriate fare. We are now revamping the bus network in Greater Kuala Lumpur, by making the bus routes more efficient, and ensuring they also meet guidelines and service standards. We are also continuously monitoring stage buses under the bus network revamp via GPS through our command and control centre and ground teams. We will be launching a travel planner app in 2016, allowing people to see in real time bus and train arrivals, thereby assisting with the coordination of their journey. At present we have an app to rate, track and estimate fares for taxi journeys, which we are looking into extending for express buses. By further augmenting the infrastructure, improving first- and last-mile connectivity to all buses and taxis, and enhancing services through the use of better technology, we hope that people will begin utilising public transport in greater numbers.