KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — MRT Corporation has yet to assess the potential for property development along the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT), work on which is scheduled to begin later this year.
“Right now, the priority is to get the project off the ground,” MRT Corp chief executive officer Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid told The Star in an interview published today.
The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) had admitted earlier that Putrajaya was pursuing a rail-and-property model to cover the cost of the multi-billion ringgit KVMRT.
“For the government to manage the project efficiently and sustainably, fare box revenue will not be sufficient to finance the high capex and opex for the MRT network,” Pemandu chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala said in the letter to Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri William Cheng dated August 23.
“Increasing the fares is not an option as the government wants to act responsibly by providing the rakyat with an affordable means of transport. Instead, the government is adopting a prudent approach towards a sustainable financial model for the MRT through a modified rail-plus-property model.”
Pemandu and the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) later denied claims that acquisition and development of land along the SBK corridor was the only way to recoup costs, and stressed that any private land acquired would be used solely for the technical needs of the project.
Azhar also said today that MRT Corp would not be adopting Hong Kong’s rail-plus-property model wholesale due to civil and legal restrictions.
“Given a choice, I would want to follow the Hong Kong model. But when we look at Hong Kong and Singapore, they have specific laws that allow for the development of a mass rail transit. We don’t.
“I do not have a masterplan that existed 20 years ago which said Kuala Lumpur would have an MRT system. This is something that was put together a few years ago,” he said.
But he said this did not mean MRT Corp would not pursue property development, pointing out there was an opportunity to work with Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) on a commercial development at the Sungai Buloh interchange.
“If there are opportunities for property developments, yes, we will do it,” he said.
The dispute over proposed acquisition of land in the capital for underground work has threatened to derail the KVMRT, Malaysia’s most costly infrastructure project to date.
Landowners in Bukit Bintang and Jalan Imbi have filed separate judicial reviews of the acquisition of surface land, which they claim is unlawful and unnecessary as the National Land Code allows for the alienation of underground land.
Jalan Sultan landowners and traders have similarly mounted a campaign to get the SBK line realigned so that it does not pass through the historic Chinatown area.
Despite claims by Azhar earlier this week that the dispute was close to an end, several landowners from both Bukit Bintang and Jalan Sultan have denied this, pledging they would pursue with their cause to reroute the SBK line.