Thursday, September 28, 2006

More rail integration

Here are more ideas as to how to solve the "congestion" on our KL railways.

I've been thinking about it, even though KTM has a really fine network, extending to 3 (and a half) directions of the Klang Valley, it has been pretty Dogmatic about how it runs its routes.

I can understand for simplicity why they designate their routes Seremban-Rawang and Sentul-Port Klang. But being so rigid about it can lead to adverse effects.

Let me just warn you that I myself am not a frequent user of the Komuter, although I have taken it many times in the past. But I hope that these silly thoughts can be explored, okay?

I assume that most people who take the Komuter are doing it to get in and out of the city (e.g. Subang Jaya-Sentral). Or users who just want to travel down the line (e.g. Seremban-Kajang).

And although there must be people who use it to cross the Valley (e.g. Seremban-Rawang), they are not in the majority. And so I think the way the service routes are designed, it seems silly why these trains have to make one full journey back and forth each branch for every run!

Why not run the Komuter to do routes like Port Klang - KL, Seremban - KL and Rawang KL or something like that. (by KL, I mean either Sentral or the old railway station).

Come to think of it, this really makes no difference. But in actual fact, delays at one part of the system can lead to other trains being delayed elsewhere, further down the line. For example, a Rawang-Seremban service might be delayed simply because somewhere in Kajang, there is a delay. In other words, I am suggesting that the operations of these services should be made somewhat a bit more independent to each other.

[If I am not mistaken, this was also an issue with the KTM Intercity in the past. I remember as a kid taking the afternoon train to Singapore. We had to wait for about 3 hours for the train from Butterworth to arrive. And that wasn't the end of the delays. As we were making our way down the Peninsula, the locomotive was faulty (that's why the train took so long to get from Butterworth to KL) and the prime mover experienced more trouble. If I am not mistaken, now the Westcoast Intercity routes start and end at KL and those from the North who wish to go down South have to change at KL.]

How do I suggest they do this? Well I hope KTM can consider introducing a variety of routes, and from studying the route map, I hope they can consider the following.

At not so busy hours, they should maintain their current service routes, as usual. But at peak hours:
  • Seremban-Tasik Selatan - Passengers take the Sri Petaling LRT or KLIA Transit to continue their norhtward journeys
  • Rawang-Bank Negara - Passengers take the Sri Petaling and Ampang LRT to continue their southward journeys
  • Reduce service on the Sentul KTM branch - passengers can hope off at Bank Negara to continue on the Sri Petaling and Ampang LRT
  • Introduce express services that bypass not-so busy stations
  • Introduce services that start and terminate at busy stations like Subang Jaya, Serdang etc.
  • Construct a Komuter station at Abdullah Hukum to allow westerly passengers to bypass Sentral (and finally putting Abdullah Hukum to good use)
  • Continue serving the usual full Rawang-Seremban and Sentul-Port Klang routes but at low frequencies
  • With the savings of "rolling stock", couple those together to serve busy routes.
Why do I suggest these? From my understanding, the delays experienced by Komuter users seem to be with regards to clashing intercity and freight trains, and usually this is most severe in KL, from the Jalan Bangsar Junction to Jalan Kuching.

Naturally the most sensible thing would be to schedule all trains, and make sure they follow their schedules. But they don't, for reasons sometimes beyond KTM's control.

So how about introducing further computerization and automation in train control? Perhaps signalling can be improved and better synchronized?

Well, all I am suggesting is for Komuter trains to try to offload as many passengers and terminate services before they enter the city. (in fact this is something like Rapid KL's new hub-and-spoke bus system)

Come to think of it, whether KTM actually changes the routes or not, passengers can actually already "improvise" on these routes themselves. But why don't they?

Firstly, synchronization and coordination. KLIA Transit trains run half-hourly. You miss it, and you waste a day.

Secondly, hopping on from one train to another (in another station!) isn't a very pleasent thing to do (especially in KL).

Thirdly, we go back to the problem of "starting fares".

Fourthly, there is the issue of different "grades of service" on "different lines". KLIA Transit, being the most posh, followed by the LRTs and Monorail and the Komuter at the bottom. And with this, we also have different fares for similar journeys!

For example, for the journey
  • Bandar Tasik Selatan to KL Sentral
    • Komuter - RM1.00
    • KLIA Transit - RM4.20
  • Sentul to Bandaraya/Bank Negara (although Sentul KTM and LRT are at different places too!)
    • Komuter - RM1.00
    • LRT - RM1.40
As you can see, somewhat "similar" journeys can cost so much different!

This has to be sorted out, otherwise, users have no incentive to hop on other lines, even if it is in their best interest (in getting there fast and avoiding busy stations). Harmonization of fairs better be done quick.

Yes, the KLIA Transit feels really good and the Komuter really crap. How about KLIA transit introduce a "standard class" with less frills in some carriages, while maintaining some of their current ones for "premium"?

And as for frequency, I would suggest that they cut down the frequency or totally scrap the KLIA Express and have it fully replaced by the Transit. 36 minutes. 28 minutes. Big difference.

All this can't happen until all the operators and authorities sit down together to coordinate. I would recommend a business and operations model like this to be explored, in order to allow this complicated network of operators to integrate.

As much as we would like KL Sentral to be the "transport hub" of the city, we must also recognize that due to physical and technological limitations, some sort of "disintermediation" in terms of routing through KL should be explored.

The use of buses also must not be discounted!

It is also inevitable that KTM has to
  • improve on its scheduling (and having it enforced!) and also further computerization with traffic control
  • increase in capacity by acquiring more rolling stock to articulate the current trains and to have more train sets in service
  • improve its station quality as well as integration with other rail lines
Further extensions of the Komuter, that have been planned, might only worsen this strain currently experienced. KTM and others better start planning ahead to manage this.


Blogger Rajan said...

On the express service bypassing less-than-busy stations - having used the Sentul-P. Klang line extensively, I can say there are stations - like Angkasapuri, Templar, Seri Setia - that should be axed. Precious few people board and alight at those stops - they would be better serviced by a better bus service connecting them to the nearest Komuter station.

As for the fare structure - it is decided by federal authorities rather than KTM themselves. However, it does make no sense why LRT is cheaper than Komuter - Komuter is based on heavy-rail technology that should cost more per mile than LRT. So if fare is charged on distance, LRT should be cheaper than Komuter.

7:04 PM  
Blogger commuter said...

Why should heavy-rail technology be more expensive than the LRT? Anyway what is "heavy rail technology"?

As for fare setting, that's why I advocate a new Klang Valley Transport Authority:

KTM need not give up operations of the Komuter. Rather, the authority can buy wholesale rail services from KTM and resell them to consumers inside the "Klang Valley" (depends on how you want to define it).

And going back to "federal authorities" - if these people want to regulate fares, I expect them to have some knowledge and experience as to how the public transport service is run, and hence how to price fares.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Rajan R said...

Heh, I think I confused myself on operating costs vs. construction costs. But considering neither STAR not Komuter have fully absorb the initial capital costs, that may be relevant...

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