"Long, Cool Train"
That is the front page headline of The Star today and the online reports, "Commuters looking forward to a better ride" and earlier this morning, "New coaches more spacious with latest high-tech gadgets".
Yesterday, NST "KTM to introduce six-car-set train service on Thursday" and The Sundaily "KTM Komuter to introduce six-car-set train service" carried Bernama reports of the long awaited, new six-car-sets (SCS), as front paged by The Star.
I have had enough experience, all of them bad, written on the subject of KTM Komuter woes, and all the so far, empty promises.
Before proceeding let me say this, even if KTMB had 380 six-coach-sets, there would be no point, if problems of delays are are not adequately resolved concurrently.
For example, when one train not only Komuter, old or new, breaks down and be stopped in it's track, all other trains will be forced to be delayed. This regularly happens.
This could could be anywhere between the KTM Komuter Rawang-Seremban and Batu Cave-Pelabuhan Kelang routes.
Delays are also often experienced during heavy rain and storms, common in our weather. It could be rail tracks being flooded or soil loosened making tracks unsafe.
Another, these are electrically powered engines, when there is an electrical fault along the lines in any of the routes, trains will be delayed. It has occured quite a number of times.
Most importantly, unlike the LRT which is computer operated with no drivers, movements of trains are continously communicated from the control centre to train drivers and vice versa. Not to mention between stations. Any breakdown in communication will effect a delay as a safety precaution.
Therefor, the statement as reported,
"A key issue for public complaints against the KTM Komuter service is the delay problem and long waiting period. But we (KTM) believe that with the introduction of the SCS train, all these problems will be overcome,"
by the KTMB corporate communications unit senior manager, is illogical if not disingenuous.
Be that as it may, 1. has KTMB taken these issues into cognizance 2. what are the contingencies in the event of delays of the above occurring?
Which brings me to an inexcusable failing, in the event of an inevitable delay - the KTM Komuter public announcements of delays and arrivals.
1. Public announcements of delays and arrivals are most of the time inaccurate to the point of being unbelievable.
2. At times there are NO announcements at all.
There was an instance, it was a Saturday afternoon, when there was NO public announcements. After waiting for about half and hour a few people started making the climb up the stairs to leave the Bank Negara station. I for one really "pantang" and will not tolerate when the elderly (or a family with small children), being inconvenienced by KTM Komuter inefficiencies. What made it even more tragic is - the train arrived less than five minutes later.
Obviously those leaving could not wait but if there had been any sort of announcement they would surely have waited.
On reaching home I immediately made the 03-22671200 call to the KTM customer service, which is not the first time.
What transpired is truly amazing.
I am really, really sorry for the person who took the call. Not for the reason you might think. I am sorry that I did not get the person's name.
This young lady is one of those one in a million kind. I am sorry because I did not get her name - to mention her specifically for praise.
After very firmly telling her the problem, in no uncertain terms, she replied that she will help to look into the matter. I asked why "help" when that is her job.
She replied that she was on assignment for KTM bookings and since there was no other person there, she took the call.
She put me on hold to contact the announcement centre and when she got back on the line with me, said that the extension was not answering.
I asked her where the announcement centre was and she replied that it was on the same floor as hers, at Bangunan KL Sentral.
I told her if she was a responsible KTM officer, the least she could do, was to go and check personally to see whether there was anybody at the announcement centre, to remedy the situation.
She took down my telephone number and said she would return my call.
To my surprise she did return my call, did walk over to the announcement centre but informed me that there was no one over there!
Of course, she had my praise and advised to bring up the matter with the Supervisor or Manager concerned to which she replied, it could only be done the following Monday!
As she had her actual duty to perform, I finished by thanking and complimenting her for her diligence.
And another thing, what I also found out from our conversation, the public announcement centre gets their information from the control centre managing train movements also on the same floor!
I have on many occasions made calls to customer service, on the lack of or inaccurate information of train schedules being announced, for immediate attention.
So when the information announced is inaccurate, who is to be blamed?
There was also once when I walked over to the KTM Komuter office at KL Sentral (at the 7 Eleven end, turn to your left) to complain and the personnel there did not know that there was a delay. Apparently he was not informed and nor was it announced.
One or a few bad apples within the KTM Komuter organisation, for example an irresponsible train driver, could creat situations and make all the efforts to overcome KTM Komuter problems, come to nought.
The human factor, is KTMB aware of these shortcomings?
Which now brings us to another malady - the train arrival electronic boards at Komuter stations.
Firstly, who actually controls these electronic arrival boards?
In the absence of public announcements, station staff work up to 9 pm and the customer service to 8.30pm, during and after these hours commuters can alternatively rely on these electronic arrival boards.
That's another problem, these arrival electronic boards are most of the time O-O-O, out of order.
And even if they are in working order, it would make no difference. Will the arrival time be accurate? The question as stated above of who actually provides the "correct" information of delays and arrivals and who operate the boards becomes relevant.
Cari makan to make ends meet, all we want is a comfortable trip to make it to the office on time and back home on time, after a hard days work.
Students not having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning just to get on the train to be on time for school, college or university.
Yes, commuters will appreciate high-tech gadgets to make the ride more enjoyable but most importantly safe. Which is what I understand was the delay in getting the SCS on the tracks, SPAD had safety questions to these SCS for KTMB to resolve.
Commuters, by and large as all Malaysians are, are content with basic but satisfactory service. We do not always expect everything to be excellent.
It is not high-tech gadget we crave. It is the relief to so much anxiety after all these years. We will be grateful.
But when you spend billions and still end up with the same old story, the disatisfaction becomes more severe, untenable and displeasure will be expressed commensurately.
Stop all the self-seeking and glorifying reports, especially The Star.
In heeding commuters' SOS call, the long awaited SCS must not end up being, Same Costly Shit.