In Malaysia has many public transportation systems such as trains, buses, taxis, trishaws and trains; including Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Komuter, operated by Malaysian Railway. KTM Komuter is a heavy-rail public transport operator servicing the commuters from the suburban localities of Greater Kuala Lumpur region to the city centre. Today, overcrowding trains is one of the significant problems that confront many urban areas in Malaysia especially during peak hours. Current statistics indicate the total that the total passenger numbers for light rail transit services have increased from 129.9 million in 2006 to 180 million in 2015 while an increase of about 40.5% was observed over the same period for the KTM Komuter service, that is, from 34,975 in 2006 to 49,960 in 2015 (Ministry of Transport Malaysia, 2015). Reports have also shown that the main rail lines in Malaysia are functioning at over 140% and 180% of design capacity (Palansamy, 2016). Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to study and identifies (I) at least three (3) main causes of overcrowding trains during peak hours in Malaysia and (II) to provide an effective possible solution to mitigate and control the issues in future.
Causes and Solutions of Crowded Trains
Inadequate of capacity of trains coaches is one of the factors that cause overcrowding, users were unsatisfied with the service quality provided by the trains companies especially in terms of insufficient capacity to carry more passengers resulting in congested train services (TheStar Online, 2016). The passengers are being cramped into trains like sardines in a small tin, overloaded coaches occurred when trains were unable to arrive according to the scheduled time, leading to further delays. Additionally, overloaded coaches could induce some problems such as an inconvenience and vulnerable to safety (asphyxia). A study shown the increasing the trains capacity from 3-coaches to 4-coaches or more system particularly in peak hours should mitigate the overcrowding issues (Journal of Malaysian Institute of Planners Volume XI, 2013).
Proper frequency provision by the KTM Komuter could reduce the congestion especially during peak hours. A study that illustrated in Singapore the trains arrive every 3 to 5 minutes, compared to KTM Komuter, i.e. 30 minutes during peak hours and 15 minutes during off-peak hours. It is not unusual for commuters to experience disrupted services, and whenever this happens during peak hours, the number of passengers would build up to the extent that the train carriages would be highly packed. it is recommended that train frequencies be increased from the current 30 minutes headways to 15 minutes headways. Operators can also increase train services frequency during peak hours and weekends and published train schedule. Any anticipated delays or departure from the planned schedules must be informed and disseminated in a timely and appropriate manner to the stakeholders and passengers.
Inadequate provision of coaches and the low quality of the train sets facing breakdown issue also should be one of the factors. Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) included high monetary cost maintaining the old coaches. Consequently, the maintenance and improving the old coaches would take as long as six months to obtain the spare parts. For example, two hours delayed trains line due to technical issue (Teoh Peng Ying, News Straits Time, 2018). With regular and frequent repair and overhaul schedules to ensure that each train set perform its best services in timely manner. Futhermore purchasing new trains in stages (Palansamy, 2016), also other efforts to reduce peak hour congestion and manage the peak demand have been less reported to date. This raises the question of whether rail stakeholders are adequately aware and know about the strategies that are viable for the longer run.
This paper attempted to identified the main causes of overcrowding trains during peak hours in Malaysia from the public satisfaction point of view of trains services in Malaysia to achieve sustainable, effective and efficient ways to address current and future train overcrowding issues. Therefore, it is important that future studies others factors delay, quality of services, passenger’s satisfaction and etc. for their effectiveness in managing passenger demand and peak train crowding. In this way, trains companies could achieve the effectiveness and efficiency in their services in future onwards.