Propelling Malaysia to next level

The underground tunnel for the MRT at Bandar Malaysia. Along with TRX City, the two projects represent the beginning of future-ready Greater Kuala Lumpur. FILE PIC

THE fact that the government has initiated moves to re-start the Bandar Malaysia project is welcome news to hard-nosed watchers of the Malaysian economy, especially on what’s going to happen in 2020, the year the country was supposed to attain developed nation status (never mind that the target has moved!).

After 19 months in limbo, Bandar Malaysia is set to stir into action again and take shape as a modern “bandar”, or a mini-city-within-a-city.

Good sense has prevailed for the betterment of our country.

Not doing anything about the valuable piece of property that once housed Kuala Lumpur’s first international airport and the base of the Royal Malaysian Air Force after initial work had begun did not make any economic sense.

One does not have to reinvent the wheel in Bandar Malaysia’s case.

To borrow a term once used by American author Anthony J. D’Angelo — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just realign it.

And Bandar Malaysia, a project that has much international significance, will generate a lot of economic activity over the next decade and beyond.

Going by the adage of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, there should be many multiplier benefits across a whole spectrum of economic activities that should pump-prime the economy.

Also not forgetting opportunities for creating employment, specifically for Malaysians, as undertaking such a mammoth project requires huge manpower, both in terms of the skilled and semi-skilled.

Coupled with what’s humming at the nearby TRX City (Kuala Lumpur’s latest high-grade office and residential precinct where some parts are already completed), the “Muddy River Mouth” city, or Kuala Lumpur, is going to get bigger through the cornubation of several outlying areas.

Kuala Lumpur is going to get greater and move southwards to embrace and urbanise the one-time sleepy hollows or jaded areas of the Old Airport Road, Kampung Pandan, Jalan Chan Sow Lin, and even Taman Desa or Taman Seputeh.

It does represent the beginnings of a “future-ready” Greater Kuala Lumpur.

Bandar Malaysia, located on a gigantic 196.7ha site, is poised to be something we’ve never had before — an underground city, to boot.

That’s going to put us in about the same league as Osaka (Japan), Montreal and Toronto (Canada), Atlanta (the United States) and Helsinki (Finland), to name a few.

That’s going to be a first for us in terms of land use besides the potential of serving as an underground shelter if the need arises.

As things stand, the shopping districts in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Imbi and Jalan Sultan Ismail in the once-trumpeted Golden Triangle of KL and Petaling Street are getting congested.

New areas would have to be found for shopping malls and top-grade offices as we move into the third decade of the 21st century.

New approaches would have to be found to make KL a more attractive place for business as well as a conducive place to reside.

It’s time we make the most of what’s available under the often-espoused Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV).

Bandar Malaysia and TRX City should move in unison and be part of special purpose vehicles to get our economy rolling into higher gear.

Gauging by what has taken place at TRX City, it should give us a picture of what’s in store for the bigger Bandar Malaysia.

Despite the convoluted make-shift roadworks that have made manoeuvring past the southern end of Jalan Tun Razak almost a nightmare these days, it’s heartening to note that TRX City will incorporate a traffic dispersal scheme.

The scheme, when completed, is expected to reduce traffic into the city by about 30 per cent.

Of interest is an underground section for the proposed connection to the SMART tunnel at Jalan Sultan Ismail.

The loop tunnel, which is now in progress, will allow direct access to and from major highways like SMART and MEX to underground parking bays.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s also reassuring that the revived Bandar Malaysia project would incorporate a high-speed rail station or even a terminus although the final and finer details of the proposed rail line between KL and Singapore have yet to be hammered out.

It’s only right that Malaysia reserves the right to decide what’s best for its people and make adjustments for a win-win situation.

Although sceptics had been quick to paint a negative picture, especially on the astronomically high cost, I believe that prudence should prevail along the way besides having a longer-term perspective on what this rail project will spell out for Malaysia and Singapore.

It’s not just about getting from Bukit Bintang to Orchard Road in less than two hours and vice versa, but what the ancillary benefits will emerge for both countries over the longer term.

Back to Bandar Malaysia: when it was first conceived, the planners wanted it to be a global green gateway for tourism, trade, culture and innovation.

Let’s hope SPV 2030 will shape Bandar Malaysia for everyone’s benefit in New Malaysia from 2020 onwards.

By Datuk Yong Soo Heong.

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