11 March 2023
Regular users of KLIA will have heard it all before. When something breaks down, and not for the first time, top management will come out with umpteen excuses, to explain away yet another failure.
On Feb 27, it was reported that an Aerotrain had stopped mid-way between the KLIA main terminal and the satellite building. A second train was swiftly deployed but it also broke down and passengers were forced to continue on foot to the satellite building.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad’s managing director Iskandar Mizal Mahmood apologised for the breakdowns. He announced that all Aerotrain operations would be suspended, as safety was his top priority.
When pressed on the cause of the breakdown, Iskandar said that the circuit breakers had tripped for the first train, and the rescue train had experienced technical difficulties.
He warned that the train and platform both had to be dismantled, before the real cause of the breakdowns could be discovered.
He said the Aerotrains were constantly breaking down as they were 25 years old.
Five years ago, when a video clip and photos of passengers walking along the Aerotrain tracks went viral, a similar litany of excuses was offered for the frequent breakdowns.
MAHB’s managing director then, Badlisham Ghazali, said the trains were due for an overhaul at the end of that year (2017). MAHB only offered to overhaul the trains, but not replace them despite their age and frequent breakdowns.
Did the managing director not sense the urgency of replacing the trains? Was he not at all concerned that it would probably have cost more for their upkeep besides ruining the reputation of KLIA and MAHB? Has he heard of the term ‘false economy’? What happened to his team of engineers and estimators to calculate costs and make the necessary risk assessments?
At what point in the life cycle of the trains should they have been replaced?
The current managing director seems to think that the trains should go. But why did previous managing directors fail to realise that the frequent breakdowns were an indication of something seriously wrong?
In 2017, Abdul Aziz Kaprawi, then deputy transport minister, urged MAHB to resolve the issue as soon as possible to prevent a recurrence. He said that the train’s useful life could be extended for a further five years, as maintenance had been carried out. He said, “Sometimes mechanical issues occur that have nothing to do with wear and tear.”
What caused the breakdowns, then? A lack of a proper and regular maintenance culture? Lack of spare parts? Lack of training? Or corruption which has reduced the money meant for maintenance? Or corruption forcing the maintenance crew to take short cuts because of a lack of funds?
It does not matter if it was a former managing director or the current one dishing out the excuses. The only constant is the variety of excuses offered. “The system is old. The machinery is outdated. We’re doing our best. We have arranged an alternative form of transport from KLIA to the satellite building, but the people still complain.”
Shift the blame to the passenger? Resort to victim blaming? How unprofessional, MAHB.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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