KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Johor Baru needs a modern and efficient rail public transport system to cater to the city’s development as a major urban centre, said Malaysia Rail Industry Corporation (MARIC) president Datuk Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman.
With traffic congestion already chronic and entrenched, he said alternatives such as the light rail transit (LRT) proposal could be a holistic response to the problem, rather than piecemeal efforts such as more road infrastructure.
“If you look at single solution, if that’s the thing, you start building flyovers, start building roads, yes, for a while it can solve (the congestion), but you need a long-term solution,” Mohd Yusoff told Malay Mail in an interview.
He also said any lasting solution must seek to address the heavy influx of vehicles from Singapore during weekends and public holidays, and explained that a LRT system could eventually integrate with a high-speed rail (HSR) to offer road users a complete end-to-end alternative.
Mohd Yusoff said that this was because many of the Singaporean cars entering Johor Baru during peak periods were just transiting to other parts of Malaysia.
“So, they [Singaporeans] have go through Johor Baru’s congestion to get to Melaka; in that sense, the high-speed rail will solve the intercity movement, so Singaporeans can actually travel to Melaka without any congestion,” he said.
This network would also help address the issue of last-mile connectivity that was a common barrier to the adoption of public transport services, Mohd Yusoff said.
A LRT system has been proposed for Johor Baru, reportedly with at least three lines that will terminate in Tebrau, Iskandar Puteri, and Senai.
According to an Oriental Daily report, sources familiar with the proposal said the project would involve 50 LRT stations covering 30 km, and would cost an estimated RM20 billion to develop.
One major attraction for the project was the complementary effect with the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail service set to be ready in 2026. The RTS is a 4km-long railway shuttle link between two stations, namely Bukit Chagar in Johor and the Woodlands North station in Singapore, with a capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction and expected ridership of 40,000 passengers per day.
The integration of the LRT with the RTS would create a metropolitan zone encompassing Johor Baru and Singapore that could be reachable within an hour, offering an effective and efficient travel alternative that would be a paradigm shift for residents in both cities, the sources said.
Commenting on the viability of the proposed LRT, Mohd Yusoff said the road congestion in Johor Baru has already reached a point where authorities must look for solutions that do not involve putting more vehicles on the road or even to take some off the roads.
He then pointed out that rail-based solutions satisfy both points in one package.
“Initially, almost all systems that are newly introduced will have a deficit in terms of the passengers, whereby people will take some time to get used to it. But when you have the train system and it can access more areas, then you will have more lines going to these places and people will realise that many places are accessible,” he said.
Mohd Yusoff also explained that this was why it was important to create public awareness about the benefits and advantages of public transport systems in chronically-congested areas, both for reasons of adoption and sustainability.
The MARIC chief added, however, that he believed Johor Baru would be better served by an underground rail solution that would allow the city to retain its visual beauty, albeit at a higher initial cost.
Asked why a LRT system would be preferable to bus-based solutions such as the Bus Rapid Transit in Selangor’s Sunway or the autonomous rapid transit in Sarawak’s capital of Kuching, he said the former was a niche and ad hoc response introduced when the Mass Rapid Transit had not yet been developed.
As for Sarawak’s ART, he said this was viable in Kuching as it was not as densely populated as cities in the peninsula such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru where such a system would take up more road resources and be counterproductive.