KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — After months of anticipation, Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launched the country’s most expensive construction to date, the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Rapid (MRT), and promised that “a large portion” of concerns raised over land acquisition and the environment have been resolved.
The prime minister also gave his assurance that the government had given “very careful consideration” to the details and plans of the MRT alignment to ensure that it would serve to facilitate the public transportation needs of commuters in the Klang Valley.
“When the KVMRT was announced, certain parties said that the government was acting impulsively in launching the project without proper planning.
“I give you my guarantee that we have conducted very careful consideration. The first study started since in 1998 and resumed between 2006 and 2010,” he said.
Besides resolving commuters’ transport woes, Najib said the MRT would also ensure that property development in areas surrounding the rail line will multiply with projects estimated at a value of RM15 billion in the next decade.
The prime minister also reiterated that the project would contribute some RM3 billion to RM4 billion to the country’s gross national income (GNI) between 2011 and 2020, which would in turn generate over 130,000 job opportunities.
“The RM3 billion in GNI is expected to be generated based on the estimated increase of 20 per cent in the gross development value of commercial and residential properties within the 1.2 sq ft area located within the 0.5km to 1km radius from the MRT route in 10 years,” he said.
Najib was speaking during a glitzy launch held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here this morning to commemorate the final approved alignment of the KVMRT’s first line from Sungai Buloh to Kajang.
The prime minister also witnessed the signing of an “Integrity Pact” between project regulators, saying it was an internationally recognised practice that would help ensure transparency in the project implementation.
The glittery launch also aired live telecast interviews conducted by RTM1 at three locations where earthwork on the project was formally kicked off today — Sungai Buloh, Cochrane and Semantan.
During the launch SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar announced that the authority was also conducting feasibility studies on extending the MRT system nationwide especially to regional economic centres such as Johor Baru and Penang.
At a press conference later however, Syed Hamid declined to offer details on the plans, saying the main focus of the launch was on the final alignment of the SBK line.
He gave his assurance that most of the public feedback obtained during the three-month engagement process recently had been incorporated into the line. A total of 6,000 views were recorded with SPAD and Syarikat Prasarana Nasional Berhad, of which 91 per cent were said to be in support of the project. The MRT aims to convert at least 50 per cent of Klang Valley commuters to public transport.
While traffic-weary city residents have long called for an efficient mass rapid transit system like those in world-class cities, their enthusiasm for the MRT system that was announced last year has also been tempered by previous issues related to the implementation of KL’s LRT system, such as sub-optimal alignment, lack of platform integration or a single ticketing system.
Controversy also surrounded the estimated cost of the project, which some reports pegged to be as high as RM50 billion, although authorities have said the cost cannot be finalised until the MRT’s alignment is confirmed.
There was also a public struggle over the tender for MRT works when Perkasa and the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia protested the qualification criteria for contractors, prompting the project owner Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd to revise its pre-qualification criteria to allow joint ventures and make the minimum paid-up capital criteria non-mandatory.
The Sungai Buloh-Kajang line is expected to start service in January 2017, a month after construction is to be completed in December 2016.