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Opinion

Monday, 17 July 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Better feeder service will drive up business

CONGRATULATIONS are in order to MRT Corp for the operation of the second phase of the 51km Sungai Buloh-Kajang mass rail transit (MRT) system set to open today. This opening represents a quantum leap in the construction of rail-based infrastructure in urban areas of the country.

Touted as one of the most modern MRT lines in the world, it would benefit about 500,000 commuters daily, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Indeed, the initiative represents the Government’s firm commitment to improving public transport in general and rail-based network in particular, as well as increasing connectivity to ensure commuters have a truly reliable transport system at affordable prices.

I understand the ultra-modern stations (especially the underground ones) are a sight to behold and that much effort was made to give them a Malaysian identity. And that’s not all. Based on my experience riding the MRT during phase one, when I arrived at the station, I felt welcomed. The trained staff greeted passengers with warm and friendly smiles, showed courtesy and were very approachable. MRT Corp has done an excellent job in training them.

But I’m afraid the same cannot be said when taking a feeder bus to the station. One of the weakest links in the current MRT system, in my opinion, is the efficiency of the feeder bus system. I was without a car for three months and had to rely on the MRT services, and I can safely say that the core problems that need to be addressed urgently are the current negative attitude of bus drivers and the reliability and frequency of the feeder bus service.

The bus drivers tend to adopt a tidak apa attitude, so much so the majority of the drivers act indifferently, are unfriendly and unapproachable. To sum it up, MRT Corp should ensure that drivers do everything possible to make passengers’ ride as pleasant and comfortable as possible. MRT Corp should emulate Pos Malaysia counter staff where a smile is a “must”. Basic training on engaging passengers should be a must for the feeder bus drivers.

I understand that the bus drivers are now designated as captain of the bus. This is commendable. Could they be given another designation to reflect their new role as ambassadors-cum-public relations officers?

MRT Corp has set a high goal or KPI of bus availability at every 10 to 15 minutes. The expectations of customers have been raised but when the promises are not fulfilled, they become disappointed and frustrated. If bus schedules are not available at the stations, at least provide information indicating the time the next bus will be leaving the station to specific destinations.

In overall terms, the reliability, dependability and punctuality of the feeder bus service needs to be improved significantly. If the feeder bus service is good, commuters would surely spread the message to their friends, colleagues and family that it is reliable especially in terms of the waiting time at the station or bus stops.

Until commuters are convinced of a reliable and punctual feeder bus service, they would be reluctant to use the feeder bus system, and hence the MRT. This explains the current near-empty feeder buses.

There may not be passengers at the train station but there would be many commuters waiting at the various bus stops. It is important that buses depart the station as scheduled and passengers must be made aware of the schedule.

The MRT operations and efficiency are as strong as the weakest link (feeder bus service). At this early stage of its operations, it would be much easier to arrest the problem before it becomes embedded into the system.

DR POLA SINGH

Former secretary-general

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Malaysia