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Sunday, 16 July 2017

(The Star) Klang Valley folk on track to ride high

It will be like flipping a switch. The country’s first MRT line opens fully tomorrow and Klang Valley will never be the same again.

It will then be possible to travel from Sungai Buloh to Kajang in just 84 minutes. And along the 51km rail artery, there are stops in downtown Kuala Lumpur and the bustling suburbs of Damansara and Cheras.

Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd expects some 400,000 passengers on the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line every day.

Imagine how such a ridership will change things.

The arguments for taking trains instead of driving ought to resonate with most of us. The MRT is generally the cheaper, greener and more convenient option.

And when that many motorists and car passengers become rail commuters, traffic congestion on roads will surely ease.

There is no mystery as to why the entire MRT project – there are two more lines – is one of the key projects to place Greater KL/Klang Valley among the world’s top 20 cities in terms of economic growth and liveability.

When up and running and well-used, the MRT can stimulate the economy by improving connectivity and mobility, which in turn boosts productivity, property prices, business activity and development.

Naturally, our standard of living gets better.

So, there is certainly much to look forward to, provided enough of us in the Klang Valley travel via the MRT.

We will find out in the months and years to come if this will indeed be the case.

Meanwhile, we should not forget that there have already been significant benefits and lessons from the SBK line.

Its construction required heavy investments and created plenty of jobs, and these have had a multiplier effect on the economy.

But the impact goes beyond dollars and cents; it is also about how the SBK line project was executed.

From the start, there has been emphasis on best practices, transparency and stakeholder engagement.

MRT Corp pioneered the concept of housing construction workers in Centralised Labour Quarters, which are self-contained communities with shops, sick bays, surau and recreational facilities.

The idea is to provide the workers with a clean, comfortable, safe and secure environment.

Safety is another top priority. Less than 24 hours after a fatal worksite accident in August 2014, the then CEO of MRT Corp, Datuk Wira Azhar Abdul Hamid, told reporters that he had tendered his resignation because he had failed to deliver safety despite doing his best.

One of the company’s guiding principles is openness, and this is seen in the fact that it publishes annual progress reports and that it issues frequent media releases.

The SBK line’s project delivery partner, MMC Gamuda KVMRT (PDP) Sdn Bhd, also regularly announces traffic management plans and road closures.

MRT Corp says it has always “aimed at setting new standards in the construction sector in terms of stakeholder engagement”.

It does not mean that the company has somehow managed to please all stakeholders, but it has done its part to reach out to them and to address concerns and dissatisfaction.

Hopefully, we will continue to see MRT Corp maintaining these high standards, and most of all, that others will learn from the MRT project experience so far.