This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 12, 2022 - December 18, 2022
Newly appointed Transport Minister Anthony Loke highlighted last Thursday the number of breakdowns of lifts and escalators, leaks and blown bulbs at the stations in the urban rail transport system.
The numbers are not small. Some 664 lights need to be fixed, 16 lifts are not working and 46 out of the 706 escalators need to be repaired.
Why have these small-budget items not been fixed? Is it because of apathy or does owner and operator Prasarana not have the budget?
The user experience of the public transport system encompasses all elements in the station. It starts with cleanliness and ends with the trains being reliable and safe to travel on. The lifts, lights and escalators contribute to a better user experience.
When one element is not in working order, it sticks out like a sore thumb. However, if there is a major breakdown due to a lack of maintenance, it can cause chaos. And the damage to the reputation of the service provider, which is Prasarana in this case, can be irreversible.
For instance, when the Kelana Jaya LRT line was disrupted for a week, thousands were affected. Questions were raised as to what caused the major breakdown. Is it because very little attention and budget is allocated towards maintenance?
Malaysia spends billions on building public infrastructure. The infrastructure is built to cater for years of use but the system and amenities have to be well maintained.
Maintenance works are generally low technology and low budget. Hence, the margins are thin. The actual jobs tend to get sub-contracted a few layers down the line. When payments are delayed, there is a slack in maintenance. Eventually, the problem accumulates.
If there is a real resolve to improve maintenance, the contracts should be awarded to companies that actually undertake the work. The middle-man should be cut out.
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