"I became a firm believer in changing the Malaysian lifestyle for the better via transformation of the public transport system..."
Growing populations, particularly in urban areas, are putting transport networks under great pressure than ever. And nowhere more so than Asia are we seeing the opportunities and challenges that this expanding ridership brings. Malaysia is a great example of managing growth, where some innovative solutions and major investments are developing their transport infrastructure. To learn more about this is today’s interviewee, Azmi Abdul Aziz, President and Group CEO at Prasarana Malaysia. Established in 1998 and beginning operations in 2002, Prasarana has transformed and integrated the country’s public transport services. Running commuter services, buses, light rail, metro and monorail has made this government owned company one of the largest public transport operators in the region. Unsurprisingly, their President and CEO is a very busy man, but he has taken 5 minutes to speak to SmartRail World reporter, Sarah Wright to let us know what it is that makes his job great and how he handles the pressure of helping the 29 million citizens of Malaysia travel every day...
Sarah Wright (SW): Thanks for the time today, how did you get into the rail industry?
Azmi Abdul Aziz (@azmiaziz60) (AAA): No problem Sarah, it begins in 1995 with the construction of Malaysia’s first PUTRA Line, a project which I had the privilege to be a part. It was a fantastic adventure for me and it was the beginning of my long career in providing public transport services. As a pioneer in the establishment of the PUTRA-LRT developed a passion for the industry and new it was something that I wanted to continue to be involved in; especially in the early years of my career when I became trainer at the rail academy, which provided me with the opportunity to share my passion and knowledge with others. I saw the PUTRA line an opportunity to serve the people and the nation; I became a firm believer in changing the Malaysian lifestyle for the better via transformation of the public transport system.
SW: What do like most about your job?
AAA: For me, it is not a job, it is a privilege to contribute to the well-being of the masses. It is a responsibility entrusted to me by the Government to offer my contribution to the nation. I and the Prasarana team are here to carry the aspirations of the Government to build a world class public transport system that will benefit the people in Malaysia. My work with Prasarana gives me the opportunity to visit other metro systems in the world, to see how they work and to takeaway new understandings – knowledge which I share and use to elevate our own system. The transformation of Malaysia’s public transport system gives me utmost satisfaction.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
AAA: The biggest challenge will always be changing the mind-set of the people so they truly appreciate what we want to do here at Prasarana. Rome was not built in one day, neither was world class public transport system. Since operations commenced in 2002, Prasarana has inherited a host of assets. Some that we cannot change, like the size of the underground LRT stations like KLCC, KL Sentral and even the current Chan Sow Lin. We have plans to build integrated and seamless travel for our growing ridership, meaning we need to make these stations bigger but cannot. I have been trained to see every problem is an opportunity and to think creatively to go beyond these limitations.
One solution is to change the mind-set of the people. We can overcome the current challenge of overcrowding in some of these old stations with flexibility from employers. Giving workers flexible work hours, or offering after work activities like jazzercise, means that the number of riders will be lower and then we can give everybody comfortable journey.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
AAA: First, we must understand that public transport projects are a massive investment that usually come with a sense of urgency. For example, our two LRT lines were constructed with the 1998 Commonwealth Games in mind – hence the size of the stations and the features of their stations. Urgency left the LRT, commuter rail (KTM) and monorail un-integrated, until now. The scenario was different a decade ago, and it will different for the better in the next decade. Today, Prasarana have integrated the LRT and monorail lines stations and ticketing systems – but it came at a cost and caused some inconvenience to commuters.
We have always pointed out that for an effective public transport system, the rail system will be the backbone and bus services will be a supporting feature, transporting the public from the first mile to the last mile. We have several extension projects in place on our MRT, KMT and plans to connect us to Singapore by high-speed rail have been agreed. All these networks will be connected and integrated and I believe that will be the focus of public transport development in the next 10 years.
SW: And finally, what’s your favourite rail journey?
AAA: I am privileged to travel to many places around the world and use a host of metro and rail services… But, I am proud to say that my favourite rail journey would be the transformations that I have helped make to Malaysia’s urban rail landscape. A journey which has benefitted the public and helped to shift their mind-set from taking private vehicles everywhere to now being able take the train to work or to go out on the weekends.
SW: Thank you so much for your time Azmi!
Want to hear more from Azmi and hear about Prasarana’s latest projects? Then come along to SmartMetro in Copenhagen, 1st-3rd November where Azmi will be joining us as an expert speaker , so click now to find out more.
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World will bring you a great new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: email@example.com to find out more.
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