KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — Public transport operator Prasarana Malaysia Bhd has emerged as a truly full-fledged transit company with its expansion in Penang where it has now entered into the ferry services industry.
The company is also expanding into other sectors, building its non-fare revenue-generating components, beefing up its light rail transit (LRT) capacity and roping in e-hailers to help ease congestions as well as cutting transportation costs for its passengers.
Today, Prasarana connects the public to major destinations with its LRT, Monorail, Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and bus services in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuantan and Kamunting.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who has decided on a special date — July 17, 2017 — to launch the second phase of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit 1 project, said these are projects to boost the public transport system in the Klang Valley.
He said the LRT extension, the High-Speed Rail project and the East Coast Rail Link, are all game changers in the local transportation segment.
“With the launch of the MRT last December, the completion of the LRT Extension Project and with the ongoing transformation of bus and taxi services, our vision of a modern world-class public transport system in our capital is now within reach.
“The MRT will carry close to a million people over 100km daily — guaranteeing the people fast, reliable and environmentally-friendly public transportation.
“And the high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will be for both our countries — cutting the journey time between our two capitals to a mere 90 minutes,” said Najib.
The prime minister said MRT Phase 1 (MRT1), which began operations on Dec 16 last year, and the second phase, which will be launched in July, will complete the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang line.
“Through both phases, the service is expected to benefit more than 500,000 passengers daily,” he said.
A good public transport system can stimulate productivity and economic growth, added Najib.
Prasarana chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Seri Azmi Abdul Aziz said the LRT lines will see trains arriving at stations every two minutes during peak hours by the end of 2018 or early 2019, instead of the current 2.5 minutes.
“Although we have shifted to 35 sets of four-car trains, we are still facing severe overcapacity issues in the morning rush hour.
“We are banking on new four-car trains to cut the times between trains (headway) to cope with overcapacity, which is now at 140 per cent during the morning rush hour,” Azmi told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview recently.
With the expansion of its business, the national multi-modal public transport operator expects to be in the black by 2018 or 2019, after decades of losses despite increasing revenue and ridership in recent years.
“We are not yet operationally in the black, but we are planning that now via our master transformation plan, which will put Prasarana in the black in 2018 or 2019,” Azmi said.
The company reportedly registered a pre-tax loss of RM1.24 billion at the end of 2015.
Through its rail division, Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, Prasarana manages and operates the LRT networks across the Kelana Jaya, Ampang, and Sri Petaling lines, as well as the KL Monorail and MRT1 (Sungai Buloh-Kajang) lines.
KL Monorail has a ridership of 90,000 daily, which Azmi says is low.
Through Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd, the company also manages and operates a bus fleet in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuantan, Kamunting and feeder bus services for the BRT-Sunway Line.
Prasarana carries more than 1.1 million passengers a day on its rail and bus services in the Klang Valley and is targeting to reach 1.5 million riders by year-end, driven by the phase two opening of the Sungai Buloh–Kajang MRT line on July 17.
Talks with e-hailers
To meet its capacity challenges, Prasarana is turning to ridesharing apps to relieve buses of their feeder service burden without making the existing traffic woes in Klang Valley worse.
The idea is to get passengers to save time with ride services from their doorsteps to public transport stations with to enhance connectivity, in addition to the deal with Comos, the electric car provider and it already has a pickup and drop-off spot ready at several stations.
Direct, premium bus service
Prasarana is also mulling faster, direct RapidKL bus services with limited stops to address traffic during peak periods, Azmi told Malay Mail.
“For instance, in Ampang at certain times of the day, more than 80per cent of riders are heading directly to the end-destinations in KL city.
He said buses will be full from the origin station, and the question is how fast they can get to their destinations if they can occupy at least 80 per cent of a bus?
“If the premium service helps allay issues of public transport with good reaction and take-up, I am sure SPAD will support our proposal,” Azmi remarked.
More electric buses incoming
With regards to its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Sunway, Azmi said it complements bus and rail services that cannot go to this area.
“As it is, the introduction of electric buses for the BRT Sunway line has generated interest from various authorities. They too, want to promote electric vehicles and we are helping them out,” he said.
The company has 14 total electric buses, of which four are on the road.
Prasarana’s decision was driven by the electric buses’ durability and ability to sustain one charge for a whole day, he added.
The operator will gradually be phasing in green vehicles to replace its diesel buses, which are already Euro 5-compliant, the second highest European emission standard for vehicles.
The transport operator has ordered 30 electric buses which will hit Malaysian roads in 2019, Azmi said.
Currently, electric buses are 30 per cent more expensive than diesel buses but Prasarana has seen the gap close significantly over the past few years.
Partnering property players
A few years ago, Prasarana began pushing its non-fare revenue-generating units by monetising assets within its control as well as expertise within the group.
By 2020, it is targeting to push non-fare revenue to account for 30 per cent of its revenue and 50 per cent of by 2022. It was around 15 per cent as at end of 2016, Azmi said.
“First up, Prasarana Integrated Development Sdn Bhd oversees property development around our stations as well as retail outlets and advertising revenue.
“Their mandate is to generate non-fare revenue within the group using existing assets,” he said.
Azmi told Malay Mail the company will be introducing transit-oriented developments (TOD) in a structured manner, and are not just any property developer building link bridges to an LRT station.
There are seven other TODs in the pipeline, such as Ara Damansara and Awan Besar, as Prasarana starts putting in place the new-concept TODs along the LRT line.