Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kuala Lumpur 2020

Kuala Lumpur is a rapidly changing city. There is a new draft city plan Kuala Lumpur 2020.


One area in need of planning in KL is transport. There are several transit systems, but these do not connect well and are not large enough for the population.

KL Monorail

There is a KL Monorail, which is larger than the one in Sydney, but still very limited. This has an elevated concrete track which winds its way though the city. The cars are set up for short commuter trips, with limited seating and a lot of standing space. This is a good way for tourists to see some of the city from above the traffic.

There are well designed stations for the monorail with fabric roofs and natural ventilation. However, the large concrete structures supporting the stations intrude on the street-scape. It is unfortunate that something more integrated, or smaller, was not used.

The monorail track is very uneven in places making for a slow and bumpy ride, at odds with the streamlined high tech look of the cars. Also the system is far too small for the city.

Curiously the track ends about 200m from the central railway station. Clearly it was intended to terminate at the station, but the track just stops in mid air, requiring commuters to walk down to street level, across a busy road, down an alley way and then up into the station. What there is in the base of the station is an excellent place to have an inexpensive meal.

The monorail was clearly a mistake in terms of town planning and investment, but one which other cities, such as Sydney have also made.


There is an automated metro, the Kelana Jaya Line (KLJ) , which is underground for part of the route and elevated part way. This uses driverless cars, larger than a London underground unit, but smaller than a standard railway. The system uses a third rail electrical supply to avoid overhead wires, resulting in a less obtrusive overhead system than the monorail.

The metro service is frequent, fast and efficient. It is a little disconcerting to look out the front of the train and realize there is no driver (there is a manual driving station under a panel at each end of the train). The underground stations have doors on the platforms sealing off the tunnel and making them much more comfortable.

There is a smart card system for regular commuters and recycled tickets for single trips. The usual hard-to-work ticket machines. In three attempts to buy multiple tickets, the machines only worked correctly once.

The metro system interchanges with the very efficient express train service to the international airport and to long distance rail at the central station, KL Sentral. There are also some interchange points to the monorail and buses in the city.

While it works well, the metro system is still too small for the needs of the city. It is unfortunate that the city did not invest in a higher capacity rail service in place of the metro and the monorail. The recent Indian cities use of elevated and underground rail show this can be done in a densely packed city, such as Delhi, with its Delhi Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS, Delhi Metro, दिल्ली मेट्रो).

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