By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin
This article is in conjunction with the launch of the government's National Transport Policy tomorrow.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- The transport industry players' long wait for a National Transport Policy will end tomorrow with the launch of NTP 2019-2030.
The plan, incorporating land, air and sea transport in one document, is a first for this country and is expected to pave the way for seamless passenger and cargo movements.
With a population of 32.58 million, Malaysia now has more than 200,000 kilometres of road networks; 2,900 km of railway tracks; 18 ports; and 22 airports.
Hence, connectivity among the different modes of transport -- road, rail, air and sea -- is crucial to ensure users have easy access to the transport mode of their choice and benefit from the infrastructure made available to them.
Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Malaysia (CILT) president Ramli Amir, who was among the industry players expressing support for a strategic plan covering the nation's transport sector, said the NTP would give Malaysia the chance to plug any loophole in the governance of the nation's transport landscape.
(The United Kingdom-based CILT is the professional body for transport and logistics industry practitioners. In Malaysia, it has 2,728 members.)
"In the past, we used to feel disconnected because we didn't have any single body to monitor and provide feedback to the relevant ministries to enhance the efficiency of the flow of economic activities," he told Bernama.
According to Ramli, three ministries -- Ministry of Transport, Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture -- have a direct impact on the nation's transportation landscape.
He hoped that with the introduction of NTP all three ministries would be able to collaborate better or, perhaps, establish a committee to serve as an oversight body.
The NTP is also being seen as an important catalyst for the development of the country's logistics industry so that it can compete effectively with other nations in the region, especially Singapore.
Ramli believed that Malaysia need not rush to attain the same standard of infrastructure offered by Singapore but, instead, it should focus on improving the performance and quality of its transport services.
"For instance, if Singapore port has 60 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) movements every hour, we should also strive to achieve the same standard.
"Although location-wise, we cannot compare ourselves with Singapore but what we can do is to improve our airport and port services and make our traffic flow more efficient," he added.
HARNESS SABAH'S POTENTIAL
Pointing to Sabah, Ramli said its transportation landscape has great potential which should be explored.
He opined that the recent announcement by Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the shifting of his country's capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan spelt substantial opportunities for the land below the wind.
"We are grateful to the government for proceeding with the Pan Borneo Highway project because the state needs basic infrastructure to speed up cargo and passenger movements.
"What Sabah lacks is urban transport such as LRT (light rail transit). However, it has been said that building an LRT network will not be economical there due to the shortage of passengers," he said.
Describing it as a chicken-and-egg situation, Ramli said if the LRT is not built now, the cost of constructing one would swell in the coming years and then the cost factor would be used as an excuse not to build it.
He also hoped that the Sepanggar Bay Container Port in Kota Kinabalu would be further developed as it would boost the state's potential to be a premier transhipment hub in this region.
MAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT MORE ATTRACTIVE
Meanwhile, Malaysia Institute of Transport director Dr Harlina Suzana Jaafar said with the launch of the NTP, the functions of land, air and sea transport must be examined and customised to the needs of their users in the public transport and cargo transport categories.
She said the functions of each and every mode of transport cannot be separated if the objective is to achieve a single, seamless transport stream.
"We've to increase public transport user numbers and also make sure that they feel safe. The same goes for cargo transport users," she said when interviewed by Radio Bernama last week.
The ultimate objective of a public transport system is to lure private vehicle users to switch to public transport. And, to realise this, special focus must be given to the issue of connectivity among the various modes of transport.
According to Harlina, several approaches can be taken to attain this objective, including creating a single ticketing system and an integrated scheduling system.
The integrated scheduling system integrates all modes of transport into one schedule to enable them to support and complement one another. Through this system, public transport users can switch from one transport mode to another seamlessly without having to wait too long.
It will not only be easier for users to plan their trips but will also enhance their confidence in public transport.
On cargo transport, Harlina said she hoped that the NTP would focus on the logistics aspect as its costs would have an impact on the prices of goods, which would affect consumers.
Translated by Rema Nambiar