Why the KLIA Express raise is valid

By Hafidz Baharom

For those who are yet in the know, the Express Rail Link (ERL) managed by YTL Bhd has announced a raising of their fairs for the KLIA Express. And quite frankly, it is called for.

And honestly, ignorant Malaysians easily say it is cheaper compared to similar services overseas which is wrong. The KLIA Express is not comparable to the London Underground services from Heathrow nor the Paris Metro system.

Instead, the KLIA Express is comparable to the Heathrow Express into King’s Cross St Pancras. Similarly, the French RER is again not an express to the airport but part of the Paris Metro system.

Even then, it is priced at €10. This is not an express fare but the equivalent of the London Underground and if Malaysia had a LRT or MRT line to Kuala Lumpur from the KLIA terminals.

So Malaysians should seriously stop comparing apples and oranges.

Of course, if this is your way of saying we need a cheaper rail service similar to the LRT or MRT to the airports, I would agree.

With that out of the way, there is a need to consider the Express service as a luxury, and not a necessity seeing as how we do have a KLIA Transit service which is somewhat easier on the wallet.

As such, the KLIA Transit services should maintain its fares. Similarly, there is a need to question the ERL’s handling of emergency situations.

For example on Dec 1, the KLIA Transit line broke down due to foul weather that triggered floods. The solution the ERL came up with was to combine the KLIA Express service with the Transit passengers, thus causing many of those on the way to the airport to be delayed from getting on their flights.

While some responsible should be borne by the passengers, the ERL needs to take into account that such conditions ruin both reliability and even reputation of the service.

It also speaks to the lacking culture of maintenance since some transit passengers griped that this has happened before.

If such is true, then the ERL was irresponsible in not maintaining and mitigating issues to its services simply for wanting to increase its fare. Of course, had the ERL management done so before the whole debacle happened, it would still get heat for raising it now simply because it coincides with far too many announcements which raise the cost of living.

These of course include the raise in KTM Komuter and LRT fares, the increase in toll fares for intracity travel and even the recent hike in taxi metres and the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Most of these are of course not the ERL’s fault, but Malaysians just need to vent irrelevantly without thought because they need a punching bag.

On the other hand, the ERL has every right to increase their fares via their concessions agreement with the government. This is yet another huge issue when it comes to our rising cost of living in Malaysia, but we should be objective about it.

When was the last time the ERL service increased fares?

I believe Malaysians need to add objectivity back into their equations when speaking because while we are facing raising costs, it is truly due to only ourselves that we feel it thoroughly.

How many times have we heard of companies not paying enough for employees simply because of “rising costs of business” yet still registering increase in profits, without even justifying it through their accounts to their staff?

I really, really hate to say this but this is one reason the prime minister made a valid point in saying that companies must also increase wages for their employees. The problem with all of us, however, is that we are too dependent on a government to keep prices low instead of our companies making wages go up?

Some may call it the subsidy mentality, but honestly it just makes no sense for me. This is because we are all living in the same country where we moan about the rise of living costs, yet our wage median as a nation – meaning what most middle income Malaysians are earning – is a mere RM1,750 last year.

This means a family of two wage earners is merely living on RM3,500 while those earning even up to RM5,000 still have problems making ends meet.

It is a larger issue than just the ERL, KTM, LRT, GST and tolls. Yet the solution must include changes in lifestyle for all Malaysians. Primarily, stop taking crappy salaries. Secondly, stop taking loans and live within your means.

The KLIA Express is going up? Take the Transit like everybody else to work. But then again, Malaysians nowadays are more complainers than solution seekers. For some awkward reason, we can complain about rising petrol prices while still trying to buy 12 RM16 coffees for a “free” annual planner at Starbucks.