The problem with KL-Singapore high-speed rail – The Decider

It’s all nice to think about what the high-speed rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore can bring in terms of economic development to Malaysia, especially the smaller cities and towns where stations are proposed to be built.

Let’s not talk about the direct cost of building the HSR or its impact on Malaysians looking to work in Singapore.

Let’s just talk about someone from Singapore taking the HSR train to Malaysia for a visit. Soon after he arrives, he would have to figure out how to move about. And that is the main problem here: local connectivity.

If he were to go to Kuala Lumpur, at least he can move around on the (limited) train network of LRT, KTM, Monorail and ERL in the Klang Valley.
Surely, the network is limited, but at least he can go to somewhere. Trains are arguably the most tourist friendly form of public transport compared with buses and taxis.

There could be confusions about where buses stop or how taxi drivers charge tourists, but train stations are well labelled and have fixed platforms. Train fares are fixed.

If he were to go to any other location, he would have a problem. How does he move around? Surely, you would say, there will be buses connecting to these future stations.

But once he got on a bus from, say, Seremban HSR station to Seremban city centre, his movement becomes much more limited.

Does he take a taxi to move around? Taxis are not that cheap. And let’s face it. Many of us avoid taking the taxi when possible.

Does he take the bus? Again, buses in Malaysia are rarely tourist-friendly. If this guy from Singapore knows he is going to get stuck once he reaches his destination, is there any particular reason he would take the HSR?

So, the issue really is about fixing public transport in cities and towns with a HSR station.

To suggest building LRT systems in Seremban, Malacca, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya all at once is probably too ambitious.

A more feasible solution is to improve the buses in these places. We can start by having proper bus stops with maps of the city/town and bus routes, along with the timetables of bus services.

More importantly, we want these services to be fairly extensive to be able to cover important locations within these cities/towns.

All common sense, it seems, but the authorities need to be ready for this first before embarking on building the HSR.

Alternatively, of course, the management of the HSR must ensure that car rental services are offered at all its stations. But this won’t benefit the locals as much as better bus services would.

Actually, if the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is keen enough, it should start by implementing better bus services in all major cities.

It won’t be as sexy as the HSR, but rest assured, the benefits of better buses to Malaysians will be more significant, not to mention more equally enjoyed by the people. – August 10, 2014.

* The Decider reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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