Monday, October 08, 2007

Malay Land Railways

Ready for the same old story?

According to a report, Malaysia's national railway company Keretapi Tanah Melayu (or loosely translated as Malay Land Railways or Malayan Railways in English) has been steadily making improvements that are starting to show up on its bottomline despite the tough operating environment.

The report said the rail operator managed to narrow its unavoidable losses by close to 21% last year from RM131 million in 2005 on account of efforts to increase revenue, reduce expenditure and improve efficiency.

That's definitely not my impression. I have not noticed any marked improvement in its efficiency. See earlier postings.

Train services in Malaysia continue to be behind time and the service below par. Grandma uses the train quite often for her travel from KL to see me in Singapore. She takes the train because she's not familiar with the bus service, which is also more expensive for senior citizens.

Mom and dad will always discount the train arrival time by about one hour. They will still be in time to pick grandma up after the 7-8 hour journey. Cars and buses take only 4 hours to cover the 320-km distance between Singapore and KL. A bullet train service will cut down travel time to just 90 minutes between the capitals of the two countries but the plan remains a piped dream.

Planes take less than one hour but Malaysia and Singapore still won't open up the route to budget airlines. The sector continues to be dominated by the national carriers of the two countries. And the two governments recently signed a pact to exclude the sector from the Competition Act despite the obvious anti-competitive nature of the move.

This is despite the fact that the Asean Free Skies pact is set to kick in by next year. Nevertheless, Singapore will continue to push for complete open skies with Malaysia and within Asean.

In the meantime, grandma will have to put up with the slow Malaysian train service, which was first introduced by the British more than 100 years ago.

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