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Responding to SPAD’s statement on rail ridership in the Klang Valley

I would like to thank the Land Public Transport Commission or the Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) for their statement issued on the 9th of October 2017 which provides figures for rail ridership in 2016 and 2017.[1] As far as I can tell, SPAD does not publish rail or bus ridership figures on its website, despite being the authority regulating most of public transportation so this disclosure is a welcome beginning.

I stand by my earlier statement issued on the 5th of October 2017 which said that rail ridership has decreased prior to the opening of the full Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT Line 1 (MRT-SBK).[2] Table 1 below shows the changes in ridership from Q2 2015 to Q2 2017 (which is prior to the opening of the full MRT-SBK line). These statistics were obtained from the Ministry of Transportation’s (MoT) website which publishes quarterly rail statistics.[3] From Table 1, we can see that even with the inclusion of the partially opened MRT-SBK line, daily ridership fell from 635,901 in Q2 2015 to 562,923 in Q2 2017, a fall of 72,977 or 11.5%. In fact, ridership on ALL rail lines (not just the KTM Komuter) declined during this time period.

Table 1: Daily ridership of Rail Services in the Klang Valley, Q2 2015 to Q2 2017

Type of Service

Q2 2015

Q2 2017

Change

% Change

KELANA JAYA

228,763

217,383

(11,380)

-5.0%

AMPANG

175,713

156,248

(19,464)

-11.1%

KL MONORAIL

67,479

48,202

(19,277)

-28.6%

KLIA EKPRESS

9,472

6,071

(3,401)

-35.9%

KLIA TRANSIT

18,518

17,419

(1,099)

-5.9%

MRT SBK

12,622

12,622

NA

KTM KOMUTER

135,956

104,978

(30,978)

-22.8%

TOTAL

635,901

562,923

(72,977)

-11.5%

Source: Ministry of Transportation (http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic)

I choose Q2 2015 as the starting point to evaluate the effect of the opening of the Sunway BRT in June 2015 and the opening of the LRT extension in June 2016 on the LRT ridership. As figure 1 above shows, despite the launch of the RM634 million Sunway-BRT (which connects to the LRT system) and the RM8 billion LRT extension (which added 24 new LRT stations to the Kelana Jaya and Ampang lines), ridership on the KJ and Ampang lines actually fell by 5% and 11.1% respectively!

While I take note of the fact that Prasarana, the 100% Ministry of Finance Incorporate owned company, which operates the Monorail line, is involved in a contract dispute with SCOMI which has led to the removal of five 4-car units on the Monorail system, this is part of the responsibility of the operator (Prasarana) as well as the regulator (SPAD).[4] Members of the public who use the rail system don’t care about any contract disputes. If the service is not convenient or comfortable, they will not use it and this is reflected in the decline in ridership of the monorail.

The figures released by SPAD compares the daily ridership in 2016 with the daily ridership from January to August 2017. The daily ridership without the MRT line has increased by 12% from 2016 to 2017 (Jan to August) and by 30% if we include the MRT full line operations. For some reason, SPAD did not include the 2015 daily ridership figures. I include the 2015 daily ridership figures in Table 2 below for comparison.[5] When we compare the 2015 daily ridership to the 2017 daily ridership, without the MRT Full Line, the increase is a mere 1.5% from 629,258 in 2015 to 638,605 in 2017 (Jan to August)!

Table 2: Daily ridership of Rail Services in the Klang Valley, 2015 to 2017 (Jan to August)

Type of Service

2015

2016

2017 (Jan to August)

2016 to 2017

% Change (2016 to 2017)

2015 to 2017

% Change

(2015 to 2017)

KELANA JAYA LINE

225,054

215,855

271,250

55,395

26%

46,196

20.5%

AMPANG LINE

172,081

161,729

184,931

23,202

14%

12,850

7.5%

KL MONORAIL

68,679

60,083

53,337

(6,746)

-11%

(15,342)

-22.3%

KLIA EKPRESS

9,509

6,612

6,593

(19)

0%

(2,916)

-30.7%

KLIA TRANSIT

17,799

17,719

19,420

1,701

10%

1,621

9.1%

KTM Komuter

136,137

108,023

103,074

(4,949)

-5%

(33,063)

-24.3%

Total (Without MRT)

629,258

570,021

638,605

68,584

12%

9,347

1.5%

MRT Full Line Opening

101,024

Total (With MRT)

739,629

169,608

30%

17.5%

Source: SPAD, MOT

Furthermore, we have to take into account that the rail ridership figures released by SPAD includes the July-August 2017 figures where the LRT, Monorail and MRT fares were slashed by 50% (from July 17th to August 31st 2017).[6] August 2017 was also when the SEA games were being held which would have increased traffic on the LRT lines (especially to the Bukit Jalil station). But even with the novelty factor, the 50% discount rate and the SEA games, the daily ridership of the MRT Full Line was only 101,024 which is below the target of 150,000 and far below the capacity of 400,000.[7] Even SPAD acknowledges that the fare increase at the end of 2015 resulted in a 9% drop in ridership in 2016. Would the ridership of the LRT and MRT also experience a similar decline once the discount period is over? Only time will tell.

I hope that people won’t misunderstand the reasons why I am highlighting these statistics. It is not to criticize SPAD or Prasarana for the sake of criticizing. I am strongly in support of public transportation and want more people to use them. If the projected increase in rail ridership is not happening, then we need to know the underlying causes for this. For example, is it the last mile connectivity via feeder buses which is the issue here? Or the inconvenience in terms of additional time spent on the LRT and / or MRT? Or the high cost of parking at the park and ride facilities? These are the issues which SPAD and the public transport operators must look into.

Finally, I call upon SPAD to publish the daily ridership figures for the bus and rail ridership in the Klang Valley on a monthly basis so that there is greater transparency on the number of people using the various rail services in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. In this day and age when the government is pushing for more ‘big data’ initiatives, surely it would not be too much to ask for SPAD to publish something as basic as daily ridership statistics?

[1] http://www.spad.gov.my/media-centre/media-releases/2017/governments-initiative-public-transport-results-increased-ridership

[2] http://ongkianming.com/2017/10/05/media-statement-najib-must-explain-the-lack-of-increase-in-ridership-on-the-rail-system-in-the-klang-valley-despite-billions-spent-on-the-lrt-extension-the-mrt-and-the-ktm-komuter-double-tracking-proj/

[3] http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/rail-statistic

[4] http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/05/31/prasarana-and-scomi-now-clash-over-the-third-supplemental-contract/

[5] Daily ridership figures were obtained from the Ministry of Transportation (http://www.mot.gov.my/en/resources/yearly-statistic)

[6] http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/07/17/najib-mrt-lrt-and-monorail-fares-to-be-50-pct-off-until-merdeka/

[7] http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/the-cheat-sheet-for-klang-valleys-newest-ride-the-mrt-sbk#Ct5sTSYz88V9Umtl.97

MP for Serdang
Media statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, 10th October 2017