Promoted as the new star in town, the SBK Line forms the backbone of the Klang Valley MRT (KVMRT) network, and its full completion by next July will transform how Malaysians move about for work and play.
Next week, on a historical Friday, 16 December 2016, or now famously coined as 161216, Prasarana will operate the first phase of the SBK line from the Sungai Buloh to Semantan, a distance of 21 km. Next July, Prasarana will operate another 19 MRT stations from KL Sentral (Muzium Negara station) to mark the 2nd phase or full opening of the SBK line that stretches over 51km.
Despite being only partial opening, this does not mean that opening the first phase of the SBK line is child’s play. It took two years of planning by Prasarana, which had work closely with the builder of the line, Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp).
The burden of getting things in shape fell mostly on Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd, which is Prasarana’s subsidiary in charge of rail-based transportation, which currently includes the Monorail services and three LRT Lines – Ampang Line, Sri Petaling Line and the Kelana Jaya Line.
According to Rapid Rail CEO Datuk Ir Zohari Sulaiman, Rapid Rail has been conducting intensive session in the past 24 months to get a critical group of people ready to operate the MRT.
The most important of them would be the key controllers for Construction Railway Office (CRO), and it is important that they be able to step in at very short notice to take over the running of the trains manually.
The four-car driverless trainsets supplied by Siemens are designed to be operated under highly automated conditions. On most days, the system does not require human intervention as everything is computerised. However, during emergencies or other unforeseen circumstances, a driver would have to enter the cabin, and take over the controls to ensure safe operations.
“We also spent a lot of time doing system testing and commissioning as safety is given top priority in train operations. Everything has to be tested until it meets the extremely high level of reliability that it set for metro operators,” Zohari said.
For example, instead of testing the various components or systems on a standalone basis, Rapid Rail, together with MRT Corp and the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), has been adopting the commissioning approach to ensure the soundness of the entire MRT network.
“This means, that after the respective systems are integrated, the entire network is tested as a whole to ensure that all the individual equipment and systems work as they intended when they actually work together,” explained Zohari.
“In terms of hardware, we have already received 28 trainsets that will be used for Phase 1 operations. Even here, commuters can take heart of the fact that all of them had already undergone static testing in the workshop, as well as rigorous on track testing to ensure each train runs for 21 km without any single fault, which is a requirement of the Land Public Transport Commission,” said Zohari.
Static and dynamic tests were conducted by MMC-Gamuda KVMRT PDP Sdn Bhd, the project delivery partner for MRT Corp for the SBK line, as well as train supplier, Siemens.
Other than the trains, the entire train network includes the signalling, communications, mechanical and electrical components, emergency and safety equipment, just to name some.
“During the system integration test under the commissioning approach, the entire integrated network of individual systems must perform as intended, without any exception,” said Zohari, who added that there will be 20 roving staff on standby to quickly respond to any anomalies found during testing.
Altogether, a total of 50 Controllers and 5 Chief controllers have already been trained so that they can provide seamless coverage during operations while working on shifts. Train and other related asset maintenance is also given due emphasis, with Rapid Rail requiring that each operations and maintenance staff undergo around 21 man-days of training before they are considered as a Qualified Employee (QE).
For Phase 1, there are 75 transit officers who will be on standby on a shift basis so they could intervene rapidly in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as ones that require trains to be driven manually. When the SBK line is fully opened by July, the 31 Station Managers will be supported by 257 Station Officers working in shifts.
Bringing people to and from train stations efficiently is another crucial component to ensure the overall success of the rail system. Other than the several park and ride facilities, Rapid Rail will be jointly operating 112 feeder buses with MRT Corp over 26 bus routes during the first phase, traversing a distance of 256.3 km.
Three to five buses will be operating on each route with a frequency of 10 minutes each. The bus is equipped with comfortable seats, are disabled friendly (fully wheelchair accessible), and come with CCTV coverage. Each bus can accommodate up to 62 passengers, with the fare at a flat rate of RM1 per ride, regardless of distance.
The train fare from the 30-minute ride from Sungai Buloh to Semantan will be capped at RM3.90 for cash fares, and lower for those enjoying various concessions. During peak hours, commuter will not have to wait for more than 3.3 minutes for the next train. During off peak hours, frequencies will be reduced to anything from six to eight minutes.
To keep things in check, Rapid Rail is subject to a set of KPIs, which are mainly based on the performance of the assets and quality of their maintenance, in an agreement signed between Rapid Rail and MRT Corp.
“As Malaysia’s largest urban rail and stage coach operator, we have provided valuable input to regulators, planners, local authorities, as well as MRT Corp on how best to integrate all the modes of land public transport to ensure the best possible outcome for commuters. We do it by engaging all stakeholders during the planning process, as well as rehearsing all possible scenarios that may crop up during operations,” said Zohari.
"We are as ready as humanly possible, and the public needs to give Rapid Rail some breathing space to get things perfect in the first few weeks of opening. In time, all the rough edges will be smoothened out, and we are confident the public will grow to love this world-class system,” he added.