Develop the urban rail connectivity network

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It is no surprise that the news of the MRT3 project going ahead was widely welcomed by the market, with many construction counters registering gains this week after Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong confirmed that the project will be put out to tender in May. .

Divided into five main packages, the MRT3, also known as the Circle Line, is the third line of the three-line Klang Valley MRT project announced in 2010.

Stretching over 51 km, the estimated construction cost for MRT3 is around RM31 billion, excluding land acquisition costs estimated at RM8 billion.

With Mass Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) as the asset owner and project developer, two turnkey contractors are expected to be selected for the overhead work, one turnkey contractor for the underground work, one for the rail system integration and another to serve as project management. consultant.

Dr Wee said the government will fund the bulk of the project, with the private sector paying some upfront costs, with the specifics of each funding scheme differing for each of the five packages put out to tender.

Carry out green routes

Beyond the ringgit numbers, this public infrastructure project is expected to transform the way city dwellers live and work as it is a vital part of the movement to manage traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and improve livability in several ways by shortening the journey and leading to cleaner air.

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“The project is the last essential piece to complete Kuala Lumpur’s urban rail network. This comprehensive transport system will further encourage the use of public transport. The Circle Line will connect to existing MRT, LRT, KTM and monorail lines via 10 interchange stations,” Dr Wee said at a press conference on Tuesday. According to Managing Director of MRT Corp, Datuk Mohd Zarif Hashim, this milestone for MRT3 came after extensive engagement with stakeholders.

“This is the result of various studies and engagements over the past year following government approval for MRT Corp to carry out technical studies in April last year.

“A comprehensive public transport network will enable the government to introduce more measures such as vehicle and environmental fees to reduce congestion and reduce carbon emissions,” Mohd Zarif said at the same event.

“Last year we shared several ideas on how MRT3 would be designed.

“Our approach is now holistic and consistent with these design principles: alignment that delivers multiple benefits, creation of high value for the economy, use of optimal cost and financing mechanisms, and creation of sustainable residual value,” said he said, adding that the project aims to increase the capacity of Malaysian businesses and talent to be competitive beyond Malaysia.

Sustaining the construction sector

In an immediate reaction, the Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) said that to capitalize on the continuity of the supply chain of MRT2 (also known as Putrajaya Line), construction of MRT3 should ideally start in the third quarter. of this year.

“The currently proposed station alignment and location provide excellent connectivity to complete the MRT loop, which will help boost ridership,” MMFA President Tan Sri Sufri Mhd Zin said in a statement to StarBizWeek. .

However, he argued that a more desirable timeline would be for the project to be completed within six years, rather than the currently advertised eight years.

“It should be noted that the expected cost of the project may be impacted by the cost of materials (due to the current war in Ukraine) and the cost of post-Covid-19 labor if the start of construction is delayed.

Highly strategic: Public transport ridership in the Klang Valley is likely to reach two million passengers per day when the MRT3 is operational.Highly strategic: Public transport ridership in the Klang Valley is likely to reach two million passengers per day when the MRT3 is operational.

“If we follow the deadlines for MRT1 and MRT2, a more reasonable deadline for MRT3 is six years.

“The reality is that the longer the lead time, the greater the risk that the project is exposed to cost increases.

“Additionally, the industry really needs projects and contractors to replenish their decimated order books due to Covid-19,” Sufri said.

MBAM also called on the project to ensure that local actors, including bumiputra contractors, can have a decent slice of the construction pie.

“It is important that the project is carried out by local entrepreneurs who have invested heavily in capital expenditure for MRT2. Thus, for MRT3, we hope that the start can be accelerated.

“The project can be organized according to the capacity of the local contractor and his ability to ensure delivery. International contractors should not participate except for very specialized work.

“It would also bode well for the MRT3 project if there was an emphasis on adhering to environmental, social and corporate governance guidelines, as well as using an industrialized building system and digitalization 4.0 , which will boost the use of technology,” Sufri added.

Hopes for a shorter project timeline

According to Goh Bok Yen, a transport planning consultant, the long-awaited announcement may have been a bit late, given that the MRT3 serves as a vital link for existing multimodal systems in the Klang Valley.

“In the absence of this circular line, the five main modes of rail transport (KTM, MRT, monorail and stage bus) continue to operate largely in isolation, preventing each line or mode from operating in its own way. optimal level, resulting in low ridership and consequent financial deficits.

“Unlike any other line in the Klang Valley, MRT3 is a highly strategic line with a very clear purpose and an undisputed role as a ridership booster for all other modes of public transport.

The line will transform the currently fragmented system into a well-coordinated multimodal system, leading to better overall efficiency in moving people.

Upon achieving a unified system – both in terms of physical integration and ticketing – the Klang Valley Rail Network will allow buses, line call vehicles, taxis, etc. to provide systematic first and last mile journeys,” Goh said.

In terms of station spacing, he felt that an approximate location of 1.64 km between stations (51 km divided by 31 stations) is considered reasonable for an urban link.

Nonetheless, Goh urges the government to speed up the completion date.

“To take eight years to build a 51 km urban road (including nearly 11 km underground) is undoubtedly slow, especially for a strategic link for the system. Maybe in the bidding process and reviews there will be experts who can offer good advice,” he said.

Huge potential to increase traffic

Meanwhile, President and CEO of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah, is confident that public transport ridership in the Klang Valley will reach two million passengers a day when MRT3 is operational.

“Before Covid-19, the number of users hovered around 1.2 million per day, but it fell to 380,000 during the pandemic,” said Azharuddin, whose confidence stems from the upcoming common integrated payment system ( ICPS), an integrated fare calculation system that will cover the entire Klang Valley-based rail and bus network operated by Prasarana, as well as KTM Komuter.

As part of the 2019-2030 National Transportation Plan, the modal share of public transportation as a percentage of trips in the Klang Valley is expected to be around 40% by 2030, and ICPS is a key enabler to boost ridership providing seamless ticketing integration, as well as physical network integration.

ICPS is a unified ticketing system originally operated by the Land Public Transport Commission (now Land Public Transport Agency) which aims to enable travel on all city bus and rail networks using a single smart card that was originally slated to be unveiled in 2018.

The ICPS project, which now falls under the Ministry of Finance, allows discounts to be given to commuters who make several transfers on different lines or modes so that these can be recognized as single journeys (and therefore with a lower fare), instead of separate routes. .

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