Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wastage of Public Funds - The cancellation of the Railway double tracking and electrification project


Posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at www.chedet.com on June 24, 2008 12:36 AM

Malaysia has one of the most extensive system of express highways in Southeast Asia.

But still the roads are very congested.

Too many heavy vehicles such as container carriers and motorcar carriers clog the roads. Their numbers are increasing and container traffic from south Thailand add to the congestion.

Where double-tracking and electric trains have been introduced they have been very popular.

Car owners actually park their cars at train stations and use the commuter trains to get to and from their places of work. This also relieves the congestion on the roads.

We don't have enough train users for high speed trains but double tracking and electrification can obviously improve the service and increase the speed sufficiently for our needs. In the near future trains would become more popular as road congestion will increase and slow down travel by road. We are putting nearly half a million motor vehicles on the road every year.

We did not foresee the massive increase in oil price but even if the increases are more gradual, we would still need to take off some of the passenger and container traffic from the highways and put them on the rail system. This could be done if we upgrade by double-tracking and electrification of the railways to cover the country from the south to the north.

When we proposed to extend the double-tracking and electrification from Johor Baru to Seremban and Rawang to Padang Besar, with a spur line to Kuala Lumpur to avoid congestion at the Central Station, it was not because we wanted to cater to the whims and fancies of the former Prime Minister but because we saw the need then and in the future.

Malaysia had a population of only 5 million when we became independent in 1957. By the 1990s our population was 20 million and growing fast. People were apparently more prosperous to go by the number of private cars sold every year. And they were travelling more.

The demands for improvement in transportation by road and rail is obvious even to the laymen. Government could not help noticing it. And Government must respond to the needs of the people. Hence the increase in the number and mileage of highways. And obviously the improvement of the rail system.

When the double-tracking and electrification of the railways from Johor Baru to Padang Besar was proposed the lowest proposal cost RM14 billion and would take six years to build. Roughly the Government would need RM2 billion a year for the project. It could be started in 2004.

But upon taking over the Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Government decided to postpone it for some reason or other, although Dato Seri Abdullah had promised the former Prime Minister to go ahead with the project.

Now the Government has found that there is a need to go ahead. Unfortunately the cost has gone up. To build the double-track and electrification of the portion from Ipoh to Padang Besar alone would cost RM12 billion, an increase of roughly 50 per cent or roughly RM 7 billion if the line from Johor Baru to Padang Besar is to be constructed (as it must).

Lately the prices of steel and fuel have increased and even the portion between Ipoh and Padang Besar would cost more than 12 billion Ringgit. The total increase from Johor Baru to Padang Besar excluding the portions already built would be far more than the original cost of RM14 billion. It would need an additional RM7 billion plus.

The Government can opt not to build. In that case the congestion on the highways and the consumption of fuel would be horrendous. If it decides to build the Government would incur a loss of public funds to the tune of RM7 billion plus.

This is the result of postponing the Railway project which had been agreed to by the previous Government.

As you can see the Prime Minister is dishing out billions of Ringgit to gain goodwill in Sabah and Sarawak at a time when there is a deficit in the budget. One must wonder over the way public money is spent by this Government.

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Pembaziran Wang Rakyat - Pembatalan projek landasan berkembar dan elektrifikasi keretapi.

Malaysia mempunyai salah satu rangkaian lebuhraya yang terluas di Asia Tenggara.

Tetapi jalanraya masih lagi sesak, tidak dapat menampung keperluan jumlah kereta yang sering bertambah.

Terlalu banyak kenderaan berat seperti lori kontena dan pengangkut kenderaan menggunakan jalanraya menyebabkan kesesakan. Bilangannya bertambah dan jumlah kontena dari Selatan Thai juga menyumbang kepada kesesakan.

Dimana landasan rel berkembar dan keretapi elektrik diperkenalkan, ianya menjadi begitu popular.

Pemilik kenderaan individu akan meletak kenderaan mereka di stesen komuter untuk berulang-alik ke tempat kerja. Ini melegakan kesesakan jalanraya.

Kita tidak ada pengguna yang ramai untuk keretapi laju tetapi landasan berkembar dan penggunaan keretapi elektrik dapat meningkatkan perkhidmatan dan kelajuan sejajar dengan keperluan kita. Di dalam masa akan datang keretapi akan menjadi lebih popular apabila kesesakan jalanraya bertambah dan perjalanan kenderaan jalanraya menjadi terlalu sibuk. Setiap tahun kira-kira setengah juta kenderaan baru didaftarkan.

Kita tidak menjangka kenaikan harga minyak yang mendadak tinggi, tetapi jika ianya naik berperingkat sekalipun, kita perlu mengalihkan jumlah trafik penumpang dan kontena daripada lebuhraya ke sistem rel. Ini boleh dilakukan jika kita tingkatkan perkhidmatan rel kepada elektrifikasi dan landasan berkembar dari selatan ke utara.

Apabila kita cadang melanjutkan projek landasan berkembar dan elektrifikasi dari Johor Baru ke Seremban dan Rawang ke Padang Besar, dengan laluan tambahan ke Kuala Lumpur untuk mengelak kesesakan di Stesen Sentral, ianya bukanlah untuk memuaskan nafsu dan kehendak bekas Perdana Menteri tetapi kerana kita melihat keperluan tersebut pada masa itu dan di masa hadapan.

Apabila kita merdeka pada tahun 1957 jumlah penduduk Malaysia hanya 5 juta. Pada tahun 1990-an, jumlah tersebut mencecah 20-juta dan meningkat dengan cepat. Rakyat semakin mewah berdasarkan jumlah kenderaan persendirian yang dijual tiap tahun. Dan mereka juga lebih kerap berjalan.

Desakan untuk meningkatkan pengangkutan melalui jalan dan rel amat jelas. Kerajaan melihat keadaan ini dan tidak dapat tidak mesti menyahut kehendak rakyat. Demikian peningkatan jumlah dan perbatuan lebuhraya. Begitu juga peningkatan sistem rel.

Apabila landasan berkembar dan elektrifikasi dicadangkan dari Johor Baru ke Padang Besar pada 2002-2003, kos terendah ialah RM14 bilion dan mengambil masa enam tahun untuk dibina. Kerajaan perlu kira-kira RM2 bilion setahun untuk membina projek tersebut. Ianya sepatutnya dimulakan pada 2004.

Tetapi selepas mengambil alih, Kerajaan Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi memutus untuk menunda pembinaan oleh sebab-sebab yang tidak pasti walaupun Dato Seri Abdullah telah berjanji dengan Perdana Menteri terdahulu untuk meneruskan projek tersebut.

Sekarang Kerajaan dapati ianya perlu untuk diteruskan. Malangnya kos kini telah meningkat. Untuk membina landasan berkembar dan elektrifikasi dari Ipoh ke Padang Besar sahaja akan menelan belanja RM12 bilion, kenaikan sebanyak lebih kurang 50 peratus atau RM7 bilion jika landasan dibina dari Johor Baru ke Padang Besar (dan ianya lambat laun tetap diperlukan).

Baru-baru ini harga minyak dan besi telah naik dan bahagian di antara Ipoh dan Padang Besar juga akan meningkat lebih RM12 bilion. Jumlah kenaikan dari Johor Baru ke Padang Besar tidak termasuk bahagian yang telah dibina akan jauh lebih tinggi daripada kos asal RM14 bilion. Lebih daripada RM7 bilion tambahan kos akan diperlukan.

Kerajaan boleh pilih untuk tidak bina. Tetapi kesesakan di lebuhraya dan penggunaan bahanapi akan lebih teruk. Jika Kerajaan teruskan pembinaan ianya akan menanggung kerugian wang rakyat lebih dari RM7 bilion.

Inilah hasilnya apabila ditunda projek landasan yang telah dipersetujui Kerajaan terdahulu.

Sebagaimana yang dilihat Perdana Menteri melontar berbilion Ringgit kepada Sabah dan Sarawak sebagai hadiah pada masa bajet sedang mengalami defisit. Kita tertanya bagaimana Kerajaan ini membelanjakan wang rakyat dengan keputusan yang selalunya menambah kerugian.