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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spending Trainloads of Money on Obsolete Systems

Apart from the shady way in which the deal was awarded, it is shocking to discover that instead of getting a modern efficient railway system in the process we are merely spending trainloads of money to duplicate a system that could qualify as one of the most antiquated train systems in the world.

Even today train derailments occur with regular frequency for no apparent reason except that the trains have probably been going too fast for the narrow gauge track that was started shortly after trains were invented.

This is an interesting article about KTM’s recent developments.
You can read more about the history of KTM here.

I am sure that when the project was stopped soon after Bawadi became the PM many thought that the government had come to its senses and was going to curb mega-projects that did not make economic sense.

Now it seems we are going to spend billions more on a project that is really outdated even on the drawing board. At first the idea of a Trans- Asia track was mooted so Asia could boast the equivalent of the European network and trains were supposed to run from Singapore all the way to China.

Already rail is struggling with competition from private cars and budget airlines. How do you suppose a train is going to compete when fares are more expensive and you will need to change trains for China or India destinations?

Let’s face it. Most people prefer not to travel by train. So why waste money on such a dubious project? We are spending monies on a system that should be scrapped or just maintained without further capital inputs.

Even the description of “expediency of government expenditure” to restart the project smacks of gross mismanagement of taxpayers’ funds. It appears that the authorities have no idea on what projects will provide the most bang for our bucks.

But those involved with the project and the political sponsors will definitely receive some enjoyable bangs. Maybe they should convert some of those slow wagons into private sleeping quarters for a ride they will not forget. There will definitely be many empty carriages on the tracks then.

Has anyone seen the financials on how this project is going to provide a reasonable rate of return? How about the projected numbers from the passenger and freight markets?

Instead of building a double track for the whole country with the narrow gauge, the money would be better spent developing a completely new system starting with Rawang-KL-PJ-Klang and then developing other systems once the project proves viable.

It is really not necessary to have a double track system for the whole network but this should be planned as a future development.

Picture: Thanks to http://1stclass.mylargescale.com/hap/show%20display%20%20my%20train/my%20trains/circus%20train.jpg. A picture of things to come?

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