Malaysia’s newest MRT line marred by vandalism within first week of opening

Owner and developer MRT Corp estimate that the damages have cost them RM10,000 ($2,300) to repair.
Twitter/Astro AWANI

It has only been a week since Malaysia’s newest subway line was opened to the public on July 17, but already, disturbing reports of vandalism within its stations have begun to surface.

The Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) Line is a 51km route with 31 stations linking downtown Kuala Lumpur to housing estates located north-west and south-east of the Klang Valley.

According to The Star, rubbish such as cigarette butts and even a broken spotlight have been left by litterbugs within station compounds, marring the image of the public transportation project which has cost RM21 billion ($4.9 bil) to complete.

Heading the project as the developer and owner is the Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp), with Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd is the line’s operator.

According to MRT Corp’s strategic communications and stakeholder relations director Datuk Najmuddin Abdullah, scratches were found on specially-designed benches in at least four underground stations located at Muzium Negara, Pasar Seni, Merdeka and Bukit Bintang.

On Saturday (July 22), he took to Facebook to post some photos showing damage he witnessed at the Bukit Bintang station, including a broomstick and a broken spotlight that were thrown on the roof covering the station’s escalator exit to street level.

The post has since garnered more than 1,000 reactions and shared some 600 times, with many expressing pity over the alleged vandalism.

Najmuddin said that upon closer examination of the benches, gouges on the surface were most likely acts of vandalism as they were not caused accidentally by bags or other items.

He feels that the benches, which were built from winning entries in a design competition for students, stood out as potential targets for vandals compared others located above ground, which were not affected.

“When it comes to teething problems for the MRT, one major issue is vandalism, as it’s quite rampant,” The Star quoted him as saying.

“We had to remove one of the benches to get it repaired, and have spend RM10,000 ($2,300) to repair the damage caused so far.”

Towards the end of the Facebook post, he wrote: “We provide a first class facility but if the society is not ready with first class mentality to embrace it, we are going to waste a lot of money and time unnecessarily to do the repair works.”

The first phase of the line from Sungai Buloh to Semantan station in Kuala Lumpur opened in December last year and the second phase which connects Semantan to Kajang opened last Monday (July 17).

It was constructed at a cost below the budget of RM23 billion, reported the Malay Mail.

Prime Minister Najb Razak, who officiated the opening, praised it as “a world-class project”.

Since its operation, ridership figures show a healthy take-up rate and The Star reported that it recorded a high of 142,313 on Saturday (July 22), beating MRT Corp’s expectations.

“We’d like to thank commuters for their support and sincerely hope they will continue to use Rapid Rail’s public transport network,” said Rapid Rail CEO Datuk Zohari Sulaiman.

On Monday, the Government said it is looking at introducing the MRT system in other parts of the country, depending on the need and viability of the cities, reported The Star.