Friday, August 29, 2008

Creative ways to beat congestion

Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 11:37 GMT - BBC

Congestion has risen 14% since 1995
Traffic volumes on motorways rose 26% in that period
But average traffic speeds at peak times have improved slightly

Congestion on England's trunk roads and motorways could be cut with a little creative thinking, according to a new report. How?

Drivers brace yourselves: congestion on England's major roads is increasing while plans for tackling the problem remain up in the air.

As government strategists return to the drawing board for the third time in four years, seeking to revise targets for cutting congestion, measures to cut jams have suffered, according to a new report.

Traditionally, governments have sought to build their way out of the problem - expanding roads to cope with the rise in cars. But a new report, drawn up by the National Audit Office, has highlighted a number of simple, but more creative alternatives.


A fancy name for reversing the flow of traffic in one or more lanes during peak periods. Signals above the carriageway indicate which lanes are in use and the direction of traffic in those lanes. For example, a four-lane carriage way - two lanes in each direction - could be altered to allow three lanes in one direction, with just one going the other way.

Introduced in the 1970s, the system is well used in Holland and Germany as well as the US, Canada and Australia. So far, it is only found on a handful of trunk roads in England. Officials claim it is most effective on busy urban roads, to cope with morning and evening rush hours, but there are safety worries about fast traffic running in opposite directions without barriers to divide it.


Overhead gantry
Variable speed limits on the M25
Speed limits are adjusted depending on traffic volumes and weather in order to smooth flow, cut accidents and so reduce congestion. Traffic flow is monitored by electronic devices buried in the road and limits are signalled by displays on overhead gantries. It works by reducing heavy braking, stopping cars bunching together and so forming jams.

Compulsory variable speed limits currently operate on 30km of the western section of the M25 - London's orbital motorway - while advisory limits are found on 30% of the wider motorway network.

Results from the M25 have been positive, reporting a cut in serious accidents of 10-20%, but England still lags behind other European countries. Half the motorway network in Holland uses variable speed limits.


Currently being trialled in the Netherlands and Germany, this measure aims to reduce congestion during peak periods by increasing the number of lanes. Lights, similar to cats eyes, are set into the road and can be turned on or off to mark out lanes. Thus three normal lanes could be turned into four narrower lanes at the flick of a switch.


Demile Nguyen waits for a car going her way
Sluggers in Washington, waiting a car going their way
Although bus lanes are a common sight on Britain's urban roads, they are rare on motorways. The M4 bus lane, which opened in 1999 and runs close to Heathrow airport, did not go down well with motorists although studies later showed it made car journeys slightly quicker during peak times. Off-peak journey times increased slightly, and there was a 20% cut in accidents.

Another sort of dedicated lane, pioneered in the United States, is the HOV - high occupancy vehicle - lane, in which only cars with two or more people can travel. The idea is to reduce congestion with commuter car sharing and, in places such as Washington DC, it's taken off so well that commuters line up to hitch rides with lone drivers, in a practice known as "slugging".

In the Netherlands HGVs can't overtake on the vast majority of the motorway network, in effect making the inside lane a dedicated lorry lane.


Again, common in the US, ramp metering involves traffic lights on slip roads that lead on to motorways. By controlling the rate cars joins a carriageway, traffic surges can be ironed out, cutting congestion and accidents. It was introduced on parts of the M6 almost 20 years ago and cut journey times by up to 20 minutes.

However, the technique was not rolled out. Officials said the junctions in question were unique and ramp metering would not be as effective at other junctions. There have also been trials on the M27 and M3.


Hard shoulder
Taking up valuable space on the highway
In effect widening the road by opening up the hard shoulder to normal traffic. The Dutch and Germans have used this technique since the 1990s but in England it has been resisted by the emergency services which have concerns about how they would reach an accident site.

Where this works on the continent, speed limits are cut and frequent refuge areas are provided for motorists in trouble. Research has found that accident rates have fallen where this scheme is applied and the Highways Agency has recently embarked on a trial.

Dr M lauds move to beef up public transport system

Friday August 29, 2008 MYT 8:12:02 PM - BERNAMA

KLANG: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad praised the Government’s move to beef up the public transport system, especially the rail system where the coaches are usually packed with passengers.

“The prime minsiter has taken a ride on the commuter train and then the LRT (Light Rail Transit), I suppose he knows what the position is like,” Dr Mahathir said.

The former prime minister said he used to take the train ride for fun and he could find a seat for himself before but now he could not get one because there were too many people using it and it happened even before the oil price hike.

“The passenger load on trains like the commuter and LRT is more now and it really needs Government attention,” he told a press conference after launching a pre-Ramadhan blood donation campaign here. – Bernama

Highlights of Malaysian Budget 2009

VIEW: I see more attention is now paid to East Malaysia

Friday August 29, 2008 MYT 6:12:43 PM THESTAR

Enhancing Health Services

* Excise duty specific on cigarettes increased by three sen from 15 sen per stick to 18 sen per stick. With this, the duty for a 20-stick pack of cigarettes is now increased by 60 sen.

Social Safety Net

* Eligibility criteria for welfare assistance under the Welfare Department, increased from a monthly household income of RM400 to RM720 for Peninsular Malaysia, RM830 for Sarawak and RM960 for Sabah.

* Government pensioners who had served at least 25 years upon retirement, will receive a pension of not less than RM720 per month, effective Jan 1 2009.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi presenting Budget 2009 to Parliament on Friday. - Starpic by Sia Hong Kiau

* The Government will now also set up a Special fund of RM25mil set up to channel financial assistance to victims of calamities such as floods and fire.

Eradicating Poverty

* Programmes to enhance income, as well as provide skills and career development training under the Skim Pembangunan Kesejahteraan Rakyat to be continued. In addition, Program Lonjakan Mega Luar Bandar is being implemented in Pulau Banggi, Sabah and Tanjung Gahai, in Kuala Lipis, Pahang.

* In 2009, RM50mil is allocated to build 1,400 new houses and repair 1,000 houses under the Housing Assistance Programme. Priority will be given to senior citizens, the disabled and single parents with many dependents as well as victims of natural disasters.

* RM580mil and RM420mil allocated for Sabah and Sarawak respectively to increase income and enhance quality of life of Malaysians there by improving basic amenities, such as electricity, water and rural roads.

* Households which incur monthly electricity bills of RM20 or less, will not have to pay for electricity, for the period from 1 October 2008 to end of 2009.

* The current tax rebate of RM350 per person be increased to RM400 for those with taxable income of RM35,000 and below.

* All interest income from savings for individuals be tax exempt.

* Reduce import duties on various consumer durables from between 10% and 60% to between 5% and 30%. These include blender, rice cooker, microwave oven and electric kettle.

Full import duty exemption on several food items, which currently attract import duties of between 2% and 20%. These include vermicelli, biscuits, fruit juices and canned sweet corn.

* Reduce the road tax on private passenger vehicles with diesel engines to be the same as those with petrol engines, effective 1 September 2008.

Enhancing The Welfare Of Employees

* Travel allowance for commuting to work provided by employers be given full tax deduction, while the employees receiving such an allowance be given tax exemption of up to RM2,400 per year.

* Tax exemption be given to employees on:

- Interest subsidies on housing, motor vehicles and education loans. The tax exemption will be limited to total loans up to RM300,000;

- Mobile phones, as well as telephone and internet bills paid by the employer;

- Staff discounts of up to RM1,000 a year on company traded goods;

- Staff discounts on services rendered by the company, such as private schools providing free education to children of their employees; and

- Childcare allowance of up to RM2,400 per year.

* Tax exemption on medical benefits provided by employers to include expenses on maternity and traditional medicine, namely acupuncture and ayurvedic.

* Effective Jan 1 2009, civil servants with a monthly household income of RM3,000 eligible for a subsidy of RM180 per month.

Improving Public Transportation

* A sum of RM35bil will be expended during the period 2009 to 2014 to improve public transportation.

* The existing LRT system in the Klang Valley will be extended by 30km, that is 15km respectively, for Kelana Jaya and Ampang lines. Upon completion in 2011, the extensions are expected to benefit 2.6 million residents in the Subang Jaya-USJ and Kinrara-Puchong areas, compared with 1.9 million currently.

* A new LRT line will be built along a 42km route from Kota Damansara to Cheras; to be completed in 2014.

* The commuter rail services of Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) will be upgraded. Rehabilitation works are being undertaken on the existing 20 Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) and are expected to be completed in 2009. An additional 13 new units of EMUs will be acquired and be operational by 2011.

* To reduce the operating costs of public transport operators:

- government will provide a soft loan facility of RM3bil under the Public Transportation Fund, administered by Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad (BPMB), to finance the acquisition of buses and rail assets; and

- reduce toll charges by 50% for all buses, except at border entry points, namely Johor Causeway, Second Link and Bukit Kayu Hitam, for a period of two years, effective Sept 15 2008.

* Road tax will also be reduce to RM20 a year for all bus, taxi, car rental and limousine operators.

Food Security

* Sum of RM5.6bil is provided under the National Food Security Policy, for the period 2008 to 2010. This allocation is to provide incentives to agriculture entrepreneurs to reduce production costs and encourage higher agriculture output.

* RM300mil allocated to increase fish landings. Of this, RM180mil is in the form of cost of living allowance to fishermen and fishing boat owners, as well as RM120mil as incentive for fish landings.

* RM1bil allocation as incentives for 220,000 padi farmers throughout the country to increase padi production.

Generating Income Through Micro Credit

* RM160mil allocated to provide better education opportunities as well as improve health and basic amenities for the Orang Asli.

* A monthly allowance of RM150 to disabled who are unable to work. In addition, the monthly allowance for disabled students in special education schools, will also be increased from RM50 to RM150, while teaching assistants in these schools will be provided incentive payments of RM200 per month.

* In 2009, an allocation of RM330mil is provided to Jabatan Perumahan Negara to complete 4,400 units of Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) Disewa, 1,500 units of PPR Bersepadu and 600 units of PPR Dimiliki. In addition, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad will build 33,000 low cost houses.

* For civil servants, tenure of new housing loans extended from 25 years to 30 years. They will also be provided housing loan facility for renovation works on houses not purchased through Government housing loan.

* For medium cost houses of up to RM250,000, a 50% stamp duty exemption is extended to the loan agreement on top of the 50% stamp duty exemption on the instrument of transfer.

* For companies contributing to charitable institutions, the limit of tax deduction be increased from 7% to 10% of aggregate income.

Improving Public Amenities

* Allocation of RM3bil to intensify efforts to further develop Sabah and Sarawak for infrastructure projects, including 266 km of federal and rural roads, benefiting more than 550,000 residents.

* An allocation of RM3.3bil is provided for Sarawak to implement various projects, including the construction of 230 km of federal and rural roads, benefiting more than 350,000 residents.

Second Strategy: Developing Quality Human Capital

* A sum of RM70mil is allocated in 2009 to train 5,600 nurses in training colleges under the Ministry of Health, with 2,000 in recognised private training colleges.

* To meet the need for new schools and replace dilapidated schools, 110 primary and 181 secondary schools will be built. In addition, to ensure that existing schools are well maintained, an allocation of RM615mil is provided.

* RM14.1bil to improve quality of learning at institutions of higher learning. Of this, RM8bil is for Operating Expenditure for public institutions of higher learning, RM627mil for polytechnics and community colleges as well as RM37mil for the Malaysian Qualification Agency.

Culture of Excellence

* The highest marginal tax rate for individuals be reduced from 28% to 27%, effective the year of assessment 2009. In addition, the marginal tax rate of 13% will also be reduced to 12%, which will benefit the middle income group.

* Recruitment costs, such as payments to employment agencies and participation in job fairs, be tax deductible.

Third Strategy: Strengthening The Nation’s Resilience

* To encourage private sector activities, tax treatment on group relief be enhanced by allowing losses for the purpose of offsetting be increased from 50% to 70%.

* An additional RM300mil under the Strategic Investment Fund to further strengthen private investment in Iskandar Malaysia.

Promoting Tourism

* New investments by 4-star and 5-star hotel operators in Sabah and Sarawak be given Pioneer Status with 100% income tax exemption or Investment Tax Allowance of 100% for 5 years.

* RM50mil for conservation works of heritage sites in Malacca and Penang to support activities undertaken by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private sector.

Promoting Venture Capital Companies

* Venture capital companies that invest at least 30% of their funds in start-up, early stage financing or seed capital be eligible for a 5-year tax exemption.

Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises

* All SME assets in the form of plant and machinery acquired in the years of assessment 2009 and 2010 be given Accelerated Capital Allowance to be claimed within one year. In addition, SMEs are allowed to claim full Capital Allowance on all small value assets within one year.

National Energy Plan

* Exemption of import duty and sales tax on solar photovoltaic system equipment, import duty and sales tax on intermediate goods such as High Efficiency Motors and insulation materials; sales tax on locally manufactured solar heating system equipment; sales tax on locally manufactured energy efficient consumers goods such as refrigerators, air-conditioners, lightings, fans and televisions; and 100% import duty and 50% excise duty on new hybrid CBU cars, with engine capacity below 2,000 cc, be given to franchise importers. This exemption is given for a period of two years to prepare for the local assembly of such cars.

Towards A Vibrant Capital Market

* Tax exemption be given on fees received by domestic intermediaries, which successfully list foreign companies and foreign investment products in Bursa Malaysia. This measure will also enable domestic investors to acquire shares of foreign companies listed in the local exchange.

* Current tax rate on dividends received by foreign institutional investors from Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) be reduced from 20% to 10%. Recognising that REITs is an attractive investment product for individuals as well, the Government also proposes a reduction in tax rate from 15% to 10%.

Ensuring Public Safety

* RM5.4bil is allocated in the 2009 Budget to enhance the capacity of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM). Of this, RM4.8bil is for Operating Expenditure and RM600mil for Development Expenditure.

* RM220mil is allocated in 2009 for the construction of police headquarters and stations nationwide.

* For the period 2008 to 2010, a total of 22,800 constables and 3,000 inspectors will be recruited. In addition, the special incentive allowance for PDRM personnel will be increased from RM100 to RM200 monthly, effective Jan 1 2009.

* All business premises installed with security control equipment be given Accelerated Capital Allowance, which is fully claimable within one year.

Civil Service

* A bonus of one-month salary, subject to a minimum of RM1,000 for 2008. The bonus will be paid in two instalments, namely in September and December 2008.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

FAA computer problems cause flight delays

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Airports across the United States were experiencing flight delays Tuesday afternoon after a communications breakdown at a Federal Aviation Administration facility, the administration said.

Flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were delayed Tuesday afternoon.FAA computer problems causing flight delays

Flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were delayed Tuesday afternoon.

The facility south of Atlanta was having problems processing data, requiring that all flight-plan information be processed through a facility in Salt Lake City, Utah -- overloading that facility.

The two facilities process all flight plans for commercial and general aviation flights in the United States, said FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

The administration said there are no radar outages and said they have not lost contact with any planes. The roughly 5,000 flights that were in the air when the breakdown happened were not affected -- just those that were waiting to take off.

"This is really not a safety issue, this is an aggravation issue," said CNN aviation expert Miles O'Brien.

The problem appeared similar to a June 8, 2007, computer glitch that caused severe flight delays and some cancellations along the East Coast.

iReporter Stephanie McCauley sat on the tarmac for more than an hour at Baltimore/Washington International Airport Tuesday on a flight bound for Albany, New York.

"It happens. It's just weird because you're sitting and you don't know if it's going to be 20 minutes or 2 hours," McCauley said.

The possibility of the delays clearing up quickly didn't look good.

Cheryl Stewart, spokeswoman for Baltimore/Washington International Airport, said as of about 3:40 p.m. some flights were being allowed to take off, but the FAA was no longer accepting new flight plans.

On the FAA's Web site, delays were being reported at all 40 airports located on the administration's flight information map.

The worst delays were in the Northeast, Bergen said. Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports were reporting delays of up to 90 minutes.

The Web site, which normally lists the length of expected flight delays, was no longer listing that information Tuesday afternoon.

The total number of flights affected was unknown, although it was believed to be in the hundreds.

Mark Biello, a CNN photographer sitting on a delayed flight at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, said flights there were being cleared for takeoff one at a time.

"They're releasing the planes, but on a one-by-one basis, so it's really backed the whole system up -- at least in the Atlanta area," Biello said.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

RapidKL silent on rep’s request

View : The company that is responsible for the operations of public transportation systems should be transparent and take opinions of the public in order to improve the service. I think it is a bad management culture for not opening to feedbacks/complaints.

Monday August 25, 2008


FOR the past one month, Selangor DAP secretary and Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lau Weng San has been trying to fix an appointment with the management of public transport operators RapidKL and Syarikat Prasarana Bhd.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Selangor DAP headquarters in Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya, Lau said RapidKL “just poured cold water” on his request, by telling him to go through the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).

Lau is wondering why they are not respecting his office as an elected state assemblyman.

“Despite the increasing number of commuters and passengers, the public transport operators especially Prasarana has failed miserably to meet the demands of the passengers.

Given the cold shoulder: Lau holding up newspaper reports of the Prime Minister’s rides on the KTM Komuter and LRT recently.

“For the past one month, there are numerous reports of breakdowns on the two LRT systems, not to mention the many unexpected delays in bus services.

“I wonder what the MBPJ has to do with the breakdowns. Why does an elected representative has to turn to MBPJ to convey the message of the people to the management of RapidKL?” he asked.

Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh and Petaling Jaya councillor Tiew Way Keng were also present at the press conference.

Yeoh had called for a press conference about the cancellation of a bus route in Subang Jaya but was disappointed that there had been no official reply from RapidKL.

According to Yeoh, RapidKL had announced on Aug 11 that they will be revising their routes on Aug 23.

“They gave people only about 10 days’ notice. We are questioning the short notice given and why a route (T522 from USJ 8 to Subang Parade) has been cancelled without consulting the people,” she said.

Association for the Improvement of Mass Transit Klang Valley (Transit) adviser Moaz Yusuf Ahmad, a Subang Jaya resident himself, could not agree more with Yeoh.

“It’s unfair for RapidKL to make these decisions, we hope RapidKL can be more considerate to the people.

“It is generally assumed that public transport users are people from the lower-income group who have no other choice.

“There’s not much you can do if the driver doesn’t follow the route. If you complain, he will yell at you or he’ll say ‘if you don’t like it, buy a car’.

“It does not give a positive image of public transportation,” said the lecturer, who has written numerous articles about the public transport system in Malaysia.

He said by sacrificing these routes, people would be forced to drive and this would lead to more traffic congestion.

He added that RapidKL was not solely to blame for the public transport problems as other public transport companies share the same responsibility to provide good service to the public.

Referring to the Prime Minister taking rides on the LRT recently, Moaz suggested that the PM took the bus, too.

“If he wants to see how bad it is, he has to take the bus and wait for it. Then he will runderstand what public transport is like,” he said.

Lau said the first step to solve these problems on public transport was to have a meeting.

He hoped that he would not have to resort to sending a memorandum directly to RapidKL if they kept avoiding communication.

“A city without an efficient and reliable public transport system will not be a livable city,” he said.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rail sevices should ensure efficiency, says Ong

View: Read this article, look at how quick the response came from officials of RapidKL and the Transport Ministry.

Friday August 22, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry has limited say over the LRT operator’s capacity to meet passenger demand and comfort level, said Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.

He clarified that two LRT systems – the Ampang line and Kelana Jaya line - were operated by RapdidKL while the asset owner was Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (SPNB) – both Government-linked companies under the Finance Ministry.

Rail problems: Abdullah listens to passenger Maya Shal Sawaniz, 30, as she laments the shortfalls of the KTM Komuter services at the Serdang Commuter Station yesterday.

“It is up to the railway service providers to plan and ensure efficiency of services, including adequate capacity and passenger comfort,” he said in response to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call for improved train services.

Abdullah made a surprise check on the LRT and KTM commuter trains and was not happy with the services.

On the KTM commuter services, which is under the Transport Ministry, Ong said the Government had allocated RM200mil to procure 10 sets of electric multiple units (EMU) expected to arrive in 2010.

Also, five electric train sets would be procured to facilitate the KL Sentral-Ipoh fast train services, he said, adding that these were expected to arrive in 2010.

RapidKL and KTM said the shortage of coaches had caused much of the problems for commuters but measures were being taken to resolve this.

RapidKL general manager (communications) Ebi Azly Abdullah said SPNB would deliver 22 sets of new four-car trains between 2009 and 2011

“This will double the Kelana Jaya line's current passenger capacity of 160,000 passengers daily to more than 300,000 daily,” he said.

A KTM spokesman said the critical shortage was due to a major overhaul exercise being conducted in stages on 50 train sets since last year but passenger capacity would increase by 10% once the overhaul was done.

Both RapidKL and KTM Berhad also said they had put in place various measures to ensure the crowds were orderly at the stations and inside the trains, and to ensure safety.

PM quietly takes public transport to experience commuters’ problems

View: It's about time our leaders take a closer look at the current transportation situation.

Friday August 22, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: Setting aside protocol, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took rides on the commuter and LRT rail services from Serdang to the city centre yesterday to get a feel of the transport problems faced by the public and came away less than satisfied.

Where’s the train? Abdullah waiting with other passengers at the Serdang Komuter station yesterday. This is a daily routine for the commuters, who complained to the Prime Minister about poor train services. — Bernama

Throughout the one-hour journey, during which he switched trains, the Prime Minister noted the congestion, especially during the peak period, and spoke to his fellow passengers to get feedback.

Speaking to Bernama after disembarking at the Masjid Jamek LRT station, he said he was not satisfied and wanted immediate improvements to be made.

He said the existing services were not systematic, there were not enough coaches and coverage was not comprehensive, leaving many areas not serviced.

“I just saw the plight of people using the trains to get to work every morning. They were jostling to get on board every time a train arrived. There appeared to be no system.

“I’m not happy with this because the people are not getting satisfaction from riding the trains. This we must fix,” he said.

“I found the trains really packed. Some had waited for three trains and yet could not board.

Outstanding problem: Abdullah (in red batik shirt) preferring to stand like other passengers who cannot find a seat during the journey from Serdang to the city centre yesterday. — Bernama

“There’s no queue. People push their way in, women with children and old people are pushed aside,” he added.

Abdullah, who was unaccompanied by officials from the two rail services, arrived at the Serdang Komuter KTM station at 8.15am but could not get on board the first train that arrived because it was packed.

He got on the next train that came 15 minutes later and headed for KL Sentral, the transport hub for the various rail services.

There he also had to wait a while to switch to the Putra LRT service to get to the Masjid Jamek station because, again, the first train to arrive was full.

On both the trains that he took, the prime minister, dressed in a red batik shirt with gold print, stood although passengers offered him their seats.

Upon arrival at the Masjid Jamek station at 9.15am, he chatted with members of the public and bought local cakes from the sellers there before leaving.

Abdullah said he would give attention to efforts to improve the quality of both rail services.

Fernandes: AirAsia to fly to London in March

William: Air Asia X defying the rest of the aviation industry by expanding rapidly amidst the rising prices of fuel. How much are they hedged?

Friday August 22, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: Budget carrier AirAsia X has reiterated that it will fly to London in March, with Stansted airport the likely destination.

“Definitely, it is going to happen and I am optimistic that it will happen in March,” said Datuk Tony Fernandes, AirAsia X director, founder and group CEO of South-East Asia’s largest budget carrier, AirAsia.

»Definitely, it is going to happen« DATUK TONY FERNANDES

He said high fuel prices would not deter expansion plans.

The long-haul budget carrier had planned to launch flights to London in December but difficulties in securing a leased airplane forced it to postpone.

Fernandes said AirAsia X favoured Stansted, on the outskirts of London, but would finalise its plans in September when it meets officials from Stansted as well as Manchester airport, which is its other option.

He said the carrier would use a leased A340-300 to mount direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, which will act as a hub for other regional destinations in the AirAsia network.

Fernandes added there were plans to fly to South America and Africa.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman Rani rejected pessimism among aviation analysts about the prospects for long-haul budget carriers.

“Our model proves that low-cost long-haul can work if you do it right. The faster we expand, the faster our costs drop and the faster we can be more aggressive on pricing,” he said.

AirAsia X has purchased 25 Airbus A330-300 aircraft and is expecting delivery of the first two in October and December this year.

AirAsia X is an affiliate of AirAsia and Virgin Group and was launched in January 2007. – AFP

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fly to Melbourne from RM99

Thursday August 21, 2008 TheStar

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia X has offered one-way fares from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Australia, from RM99.

Flights from Melbourne back to Kuala Lumpur will be priced from A$199 (RM577).

There will be four flights a week to Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine) with the first taking off on Nov 12.

Interested travellers can start booking their tickets online during the promotional period beginning today until Sunday for flights from Nov 12 to April 30.

The long-haul low-cost airline said in a statement that it was already planning to increase flights during the peak season from December to mid-January.

Chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani said the new flights were the result of a collaborative effort between the Victoria state government, the airline and the industry.

Melbourne is the third Australian destination offered by AirAsia X, aside from Gold Coast and Perth.

The airline currently operates four weekly flights to Gold Coast and will be flying to Perth five times per week.

Chong Wei to receive Olympic reward tonight

Wednesday August 20, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: The appearance of Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei caused some excitement at Parliament House yesterday.

Lee paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Malaysian pride: Abdullah proudly looking at the Olympic silver medal won by Lee at his Parliament office. Looking on is Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ismail Sabry Yaacob. Lee met with the Prime Minister for 15 minutes Tuesday together with other members of the badminton team.

Najib told Lee that a special ceremony would be held at Lee’s home state in Penang tonight, in which he would be presented with a cheque for RM300,000 and a monthly pension of RM3,000 – for winning the nation a silver at the Beijing Olympics.

Asked what he would do with the money, Lee told reporters that he might buy a house and live there with his parents.

When teased that he could use the cash to get married, Lee coyly replied: “No, I’m still too young for that.”

Chong Wei to be awarded a Datukship

Thursday August 21, 2008 THESTAR

GEORGE TOWN:Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei is to be made a Datuk by the Penang Government.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas would confer the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN) on Lee on Aug 30.

“The state will award the DSPN to Penang’s first Olympic silver medallist, Bukit Mertajam home-grown talent Lee Chong Wei,” he told a press conference yesterday.

The rewards roll in: Najib (centre) handing over the mock cheque of RM300,000 to Chong Wei at the Jalan Tenggiri basketball court in Seberang Jaya yesterday. Looking on is Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaacob (right).

He said Chong Wei had done Penang proud with his achievement.

“Even though Malaysians were disappointed that he failed to win the gold medal, we are proud of his achievement, which has brought joy to both state and country,” Lim added.

“The state government hopes that this recognition will spur him on to break more records and achieve greater success.”

The CM said the DSPN, instituted in 1976, was limited to 800 living persons, and was conferred on individuals of high position who had contributed unique and valuable services to the state.

Chong Wei’s eldest brother Chong Hoon, who attended the press conference, contacted the player on his mobile phone on loudspeaker mode.

Chong Wei, 26, said he was very happy and did not at all expect to get a Datukship for being a silver medallist.

“I thought that maybe, if I win the gold medal, I might be given a Datukship. But no, I never expected it for the silver and was very surprised,” he said.

In Butterworth, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Chong Wei’s success is testimony that Malaysia is a country with fair policies. He said anyone who has potential in this country will be given the opportunity to shine and achieve the highest success in sports or any other field, may it be education or business.

“If Lee Chong Wei can succeed, there will be many more Lee Chong Wei in the future because we give everyone equal chance.

“In other countries, the assimilation policy is adopted, but in Malaysia we integrate. This is our policy from the very beginning until today.

“Lee Chong Wei will remain Lee Chong Wei. He does not have to adopt a different name. And we also have Malays who can speak Chinese,” Najib said at a function where he handed Lee a cheque for RM300,000 for winning the silver medal at the Olympic Games and a mock cheque for RM3,000 being the pension reward the Government had promised for the feat. The pension payments begin from next month and is for life.

Pirates hijack MISC tanker

Thursday August 21, 2008 THESTAR

Pirates hijack MISC tanker


PETALING JAYA:The whereabouts of 29 Malaysians and 10 Filipinos on an MISC Bhd tankers remains unknown since the vessel was hijacked by heavily-armed pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday.

MISC, the world’s largest single owner and operator of liquefied natural gas tankers, confirmed that its 32,025 dead-weight-tonne chemical tanker Bunga Melati Dua which carried palm oil was hijacked by pirates at 10.09pm local time off the coast of Somalia.

The fully-laden vessel was heading for Rotterdam from Dumai, Sumatra, at the time of the incident.

“All authorities have been notified and we are working closely to render the necessary assistance and support,” MISC said in a statement.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB)'s Piracy Reporting Centre regional head Noel Choong told The Star that based on “common case scenario” in the area, the pirates would most probably demand ransom for the release of the vessel and crew.

IMB received a distress call late Tuesday and immediately notified a naval ship patrolling the area to intercept the pirates.

“But the pirates had cut all modes of communication and are suspected to have entered Somali waters.

“Pirates in the area usually use firearms such as AK-47, machine-guns and grenade launchers,” he said.

He said this was the fourth piracy case in the same area in a month and IMB called on the United Nations (UN) and the international community to take necessary action to curb the crime.

The UN Security Council has voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters.

“But, the warships are only allowed to monitor maritime crime such as piracy. They cannot take any physical action,” he said.

The piracy cases in the past month involved a bulk carrier, a tugboat and a general cargo vessel.

Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa of about 3,025km and is near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

The IMB cautioned all vessels transiting the area to take additional precautionary measures.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Coping with more commuters

Riding the LRT, I noticed that the LRTs are only 2-car trains, I don't understand why those operators do not plan ahead with growth in mind. By the time they receive the new 4-car trains between 2009 and 2011, the lag time would have cause a huge dent in service levels, and rider confidence. It does not make sense that billions of Ringgit are poured into the LRT system and yet only 2-car trains ply the routes. Look at other mass transportation lines around Asia, they fully utilize their systems to carry as many passengers as possible, this is what efficiency means.

Monday August 18, 2008 THESTAR

Coping with more commuters


Many KL folks now leave their cars behind after feeling the pinch of a 40% hike in petrol prices, but upon taking public transport, they cannot help but think that our service providers are not ready for better business. StarMetro finds out more about the situation.

RESORTING to public transport has become the only choice, albeit a sometimes inconvenient one, for many KL-ites following a 40% increase in petrol prices recently.

Rangkaian Pengangkutan Integrasi Deras Sdn Bhd (RapidKL), the main service provider for public transportat in the Klang Valley, recorded a 7.5% increase in ridership for its bus services and a 3.9% increase for the LRT services.

That, in other words, means the buses are now taking about 392,000 passengers daily, 27,000 more than they previously did while the LRT lines have seen an increase of 12,000 daily.

Spilling over: This bus stop is so crowded that commuters are forced to wait on the road.

Can our current system cope with the drastic increase? The scenes seen during peak hours suggest otherwise — commuters squeeze themselves like canned sardines to get into Komuter trains, passengers spill out of bus stops onto roads where traffic is heavy while dozens are “stranded” after disembarking from the LRT as the feeder buses lie idle.

“It is getting from bad to worse,” accounts clerk Martin Fernandez, 26, who travels to work by Komuter, said.

“There’s an obvious increase in the number of passengers. I need to wait longer for my turn to get into the train and I do not want to be as rough as some just to secure a space,” he said.

LRT user Tina Low, 24, said she was frustrated waiting for the feeder bus and often had to resort to taking the taxi to get home.

“At the end of the day, I wonder how much I can save and I may as well just drive,” the bank executive said.

StarMetro checked with several service providers on the measures they are taking to cope with the increased volume of commuters.

RapidKL was the first to respond, KTM has pledged to reply and Monorail had to turn down the interview until a transition of management was completed.

Packing it in: Commuters try to force their way into a crowded Komuter train

Measures taken by RapidKL:

·New Four-Car Trains

It is learned that SPNB, the asset owner, and RapidKL will bring in a total of 22 sets of new four-car trains between 2009 and 2011;

“We expect to have the complete set of 22 trains by the end of 2011. By the end of 2009, the Kelana Jaya Line service will have a combination of four car and two-car trains in operation during peak hours,” RapidKL chief executive officer Suffian Baharuddin said.

With that, he said, the Kelana Jaya Line could hold a maximum capacity of more than 300,000 passengers per day compared with the current capacity of 160,000 per day.

·Park-and-ride facilities to encourage use on the Ampang LRT Line

RapidKL has made available park-and-ride facilities at stations along its Ampang LRT Line where the current capacity is about 70% (see table). LRT users can also consider going to the stations by car-pool.

The Maluri, Cempaka, Pandan Jaya and Pandan Indah stations have more than 200 parking bays each, while the Pudu, PWTC, Sungai Besi, Sentul and Sentul Timur stations have about 100 each.

The Cahaya station was recently equipped with a footbridge linking both platforms. Formerly, passengers would have to use an overhead bridge about 30m away to cross to the other side.

“Therefore, we encourage the public living near LRT stations to use the LRT services.

RapidKL can also increase the number of trains to cater to any significant growth in passenger demand for the Ampang Line,” Suffian added.

·Crowd management

RapidKL also claimed that they had not encountered major glitches in managing the higher traffic volume, with adequate staff at the LRT stations to manage the crowd.

Big plans: Suffian explaining some of Rapid KL’s plans.

“When the crowd at the platform is large, the staff will stop the crowd at the concourse level until the passengers clear the platform.

This is part of our safety measures to prevent any incidents,” Suffian said.

He said in cases of disruption in the LRT service, passengers were updated with frequent announcements over the PA system so that they could make alternative arrangements. Buses would also be deployed to the affected stations.

·Wider bus coverage

Suffian said RapidKL was constantly reviewing its bus network in order to feed the demand, including the local shuttle service that serves as the feeder bus.

He said RapidKL now covered 166 routes compared with 140 in 2005 when it first came on board. It covered 980 housing estates compared with 638 before and 650 buses are scheduled for deployment during peak hours compared with 470 in 2005.

“There are 18 other stage bus operators in the Klang Valley. RapidKL only provides an estimated 55% out of the overall stage bus services here.

“RapidKL serves 23 social routes where demand for the bus service is still low and, in many instances, we are the only bus operator in the area. It is hoped that all bus operators could also serve a mixture of high and low demand routes to improve the overall stage bus services,” he said.

·Recruitment of drivers

RapidKL has started an “aggressive” recruitment programme for new bus drivers with attractive remunerations where they can earn more than RM1,500 a month.

Suffian also noted that bus services were largely affected by traffic conditions.

“Bus delays faced by commuters in Klang Valley are generally due to traffic congestion and other factors beyond RapidKL’s control, including road diversion and closures, haphazard parking, adverse weather conditions as well as traffic accidents,” he said.

·More sheltered bus stops

RapidKL is working with the local authorities to help in providing more sheltered bus stops for their comfort and convenience; and

·Bus lanes

RapidKL hails Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s initiative to extend and enforce bus lanes in the city, urging other local authorities to emulate the move.

Cheers for our hero in Olympic badminton final

Monday August 18, 2008 TheStar

Cheers for our hero in Olympic badminton final

BUTTERWORTH: Even politics took a back seat when the Olympic men’s badminton singles final was played yesterday.

Both candidates for the Permatang Pauh by-election took about an hour's break from their walkabouts to watch the match between Malays’a Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan.

Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim watched the live telecast barely 3km away from each other in Seberang Jaya.

While Arif Shah joined a group of youths to witness the match at a nasi kandar restaurant along Jalan Todak, Anwar stopped at a small stall on Jalan Tenggiri to watch the game.

Spectator sport: Eager fans watching the live telecast of the men’s single badminton final at Italiannies in The Curve, Mutiara Damansara.

They were not the only ones who took a break for sports – Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak watched the live telecast at the Umno Youth main operations centre at Jalan Kubang Semang.

In Petaling Jaya, hundreds of people went to mamak shops and restaurants which had big screens set up for the live telecast. They cheered and clapped each time Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei gained points against Chinese Lin Dan in the men’s singles finals in the Beijing Olympics.

Despite Lee's loss to Lin Dan in straight sets, many said they were proud that Malaysia had managed to reach the finals.

Siti Mariam Mustafa, 30, said she was extremely proud of Lee.

“It really doesn’t matter to me because this is the first time Malaysia has reached the (badminton singles) final.

“No Malaysian has done it before and I’m still happy to see the results,” said Siti Mariam, an insurance executive from Bangsar.

Siti Mariam and her boyfriend Sufian Mohd Nor, 35, an IT executive, chose to forgo two tickets for Meet Dave when they realised the final clashed with the movie.

“We just knew that we had to support him as proud Malaysians,” she said.

Siblings Lew Ai Lee, Tau Fei and Tau Cherng, who were dining at a restaurant at The Curve here with their partners, arrived as early as 7pm to choose the best seats in front of the big screen showing the match.

“This is a really meaningful event because our fellow Malaysian had the chance to win the gold medal so we made sure we did not miss it.

“Lee is our favourite player and I am sure he tried his best even though he did not win.

“He put up a good fight not for the RM1mil that he was promised but for his fighting spirit,” said Tau Fei, a graphic designer from Kelana Jaya.

Monday, August 4, 2008

MAS serving hot meals in boxes

View: In the ever tight airline industry, a 5 minute savings in turnaround time can potentially increase revenues by millions a year.

Tuesday August 5, 2008 THESTAR

PETALING JAYA: Hot meals are back on Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flights, but they are still served in meal boxes.

MAS managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the hot meal boxes, which were launched last month, had improved aircraft turnaround time by five minutes.

“By improving the turnaround time, MAS can increase revenue by RM50mil a year,” he said at the MAS Academy yesterday.

He said passengers who do not feel like eating while on board could take the meal boxes as takeaways.

“We prefer that passengers take them out, as this means we save on cleaning time,” Idris said, adding that the objective was to increase in-flight efficiency.

“This approach will see the return of all-time favourites such as nasi lemak and nasi goreng kampung as well as the introduction of new varieties.”

Passengers can choose from 37 Asian and Western meal options that change on a daily basis. Those with special dietary requirement need to inform the airline when during ticket booking their tickets.

“We are conducting an in-flight survey until Aug 15 and will use the findings to continuously refine our meal offerings,” he said.

The airlines is also progressively developing special meals such as for children and vegetarians, and these will be introduced by the end of next month.

Hot meal boxes are currently offered on domestic flights from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu, as well as on Asean flights between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Jogjakarta, Phuket, Bandar Seri Begawan, Denpasar, Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila, Siem Reap, Surabaya and Singapore.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

China launches high-speed train

Just in time for the Olympics. I wonder if the entire system, especially the train is 100% made in China? Reminds me of the high speed trains in Japan. $3 billion for 75 miles.

A new high-speed train waits at Beijing South station on 1 August 2008
The new rail service is part of wider plans to upgrade China's trains

BBC: A week before the Olympic Games, China has launched its first super high-speed intercity rail route.

The 120-km (75-mile) line will shuttle athletes and spectators between Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin, where Olympic football matches will be held.

Trains will reach speeds of 350 km/h, cutting journey times between the cities from 70 to 30 minutes.

The railway is part of the new infrastructure that China has put in place for the Games.

Rail enthusiasts began queuing on Thursday for tickets for the train's inaugural run, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

A tour inside the new super high-speed intercity train

Twin ceremonies were held in Beijing and Tianjin on Friday, with the first trains set to depart shortly afterwards.

The high-tech trains, which feature swivel seats and smart interiors, can accommodate about 600 people.

Construction began on the new line in July 2005. It has cost a total of 21.5bn yuan ($3.1bn, £1.55bn), Railway Minister Wang Zhiguo said.

A first class ticket will cost 69 yuan ($10), while a second-class ticket is 58 yuan.