The end of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Klang Valley?

Ong Kian Ming


WHEN Minister in the Prime Minister’s department in charge of public transportation Nancy Shukri confirmed in parliament that the KL-Klang Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) tender had been called off, I was somewhat disappointed.

This BRT line, which was first proposed in the Greater Klang Valley Public Transport Masterplan way back in 2012, had the potential to spearhead a whole series of successful BRT projects in the Klang Valley. With its cancellation, the future of BRT projects, especially in the Klang Valley, is very much in question.

Under the aforementioned 2012 public transport masterplan, 12 BRT corridors were identified and 4 were assigned as Priority 1 corridors including the KL-Klang route (See figure 1 below). Unfortunately, the first BRT project in Malaysia which was built was not a Priority 1 route but a Priority 3 route in the Sunway area.

Penang Institute has written a report on the Sunway-BRT including highlighting many of its weaknesses in terms of the cost of the project, the route alignment and also pricing strategy. As a result of these shortcomings, the current ridership for the Sunway BRT is a fraction of what was originally projected.


Figure 1: 12 BRT corridors as spelled out in the Greater Klang Valley Public Transport Masterplan 2012

The KL-Klang BRT project had the potential to be a showcase of how a successful BRT line could operate. At an estimated budget of RM1 to RM2 billion, which is a fraction of the cost of the LRT Line 3 and the MRT Lines, it would have provided a complementary strategy for public transportation in the Klang Valley and also the rest of the country.

The route alignment, which is along the federal highway, one of the most congested highways in the country, would have put to the test the ability of public transportation to take cars off the road. If implemented well, it would have been a viable alternative for residents in Klang, Shah Alam and Subang Jaya who currently have to rely on KTM services to reach Kuala Lumpur via public transportation. A successful KL-Klang BRT line would also have spurred the building of other BRT lines along the identified BRT corridors.

But instead of financing the KL-Klang BRT line via Danainfra (which is what was used to finance MRT Line 1 and 2), the government decided to use a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Build Operated Transfer (BOT) model.

This means that the initial financing of the project will have to be provided by bidder and the same bidder would also have to find ways of recouping the construction costs as well as the subsequent operational costs (See Figure 2 below). Despite these constraints, the Minister announced in parliament that there were at least 4 bidders who put in a bid for this contract before the closing date of May 2, 2017. Newspaper reports indicated that one of these bids was in the RM2 billion range.

But before these bids could be deliberated on, the entire tender was cancelled sometime in November 2017. The answer given by the Minister in parliament was because there was an overlap in the proposed KL-Klang BRT line and the LRT 3 project.


Figure 2: Tender notice for the KL-Klang BRT project

I found this to be a weak reason given that (i) the LRT 3 alignment from Bandar Utama to Johan Setia in Klang had already been announced prior to the KL-Klang BRT tender and (ii) the KL-Klang BRT could complement the LRT line by serving areas that are not covered by the LRT Line 3.

For some reason, SPAD has chosen to give priority to the more expensive LRT and MRT options for public transportation, rather than giving the opportunity for the less expensive BRT lines to be developed.

The cancellation of the KL-Klang BRT line is probably a signal that the BRT experimentation which started with the Sunway-BRT will also end there, at least in the foreseeable future. – December 10, 2017.

* Dr Ong Kian Ming is the Member of Parliament for Serdang, Selangor and is also the General Manager of Penang Institute in Kuala Lumpur. He holds a PhD in Political Science from Duke University, an MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge and a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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