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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Year's Rush

It's the new year. Before i start on today's column, i would firstly like to wish everyone a blessed 2008. Hoot!

It has become a tradition for many to schedule various activities during the borders of the years. Even before my class ended yesterday, my classmates were already citing plans to visit the few major shopping malls in KL for the annual countdown. Even the tutors and lecturers were talking about it. I even got many friends asking me the million-ringgit question "you not going anywhere tonight meh?"

the truth is, while christmas is a meaningful celebration for me, i find it relatively pointless to rejoice for the need to get a new calendar. To me and my family, new year's eve means a sleepless night (due to the loud fireworks) ane new year's day is a great opportunity to compensate that.

Nevertheless, i decided to spend the last few hours of 2007 by relaxing and distancing myself away from the huge pile of schoolwork. So, at 6, i took the LRT to KLCC for a bit of a walk. I could even indulge myself in the big pile of books of Kinokuniya - it had been quite some time since i last spent hours in a bookstore.

I was having such a good time that i didnt notice how time flew by (as good times always do). When i finally replaced the "Street Magic" back to its shelf, it was already 10pm. You may as well ask me to stay for the two hours and join in the celebrations of the retirement of my calendars, but as i was quite exhausted, i decided that it wasn't that much of a good idea. So i proceeded to the LRT station.

And this is when i witnessed the big crowds.

The tunnel leading to the station had been divided into two lanes. The lane with people moving into KLCC was so crowded and moved in a steady stream. Routes had also been planned in the station. As the station has two rows of ticket barriers, the one closer to the tunnel had been assigned as the exit from the platforms. Barriers were placed to herd the public straight to the lane of the tunnel which leads towards KLCC. Meanwhile, a row of tables had been set up beside the ticket vending machines, serving as temporary ticket counters for the day. These counters sell manual tickets (non-magnetic ones) and a gate had been opened between the two rows of ticket barriers to allow admittance of those using the manual tickets. The gate was, of course, guarded ay operators.

Upon entering the platform, i was mildly surprised to find that additional workforce had been employed here as well. Guards guided the passenges who disembarked from the trains to move towards the escalator, as the stairs were used as the platforms' entrance. Barriers were also placed to make sure that passengers do not crowd around the doors. Trains were also peak-hours-scheduled, with a little over 3 minutes between trains. Services were also extended to 2.30am that day.

The trains themselves did not bear any changes, but i did noticed a RapidKL operator standing behing the manual driving panel at the very front of the train. More operators move in and out of the trains in the stations.

I woke up to a sleepy morning and prepared to go home. As usual, i took the LRT to KL Sentral station and changed to a KTM Komuter.

I tapped the ticket barrier with my wallet and entered platforms 5 (to Port Klang) and 6 (Seremban). The former was rather empty, with a dozen or two passengers waiting, but the latter was the exact opposite. Hundreds of people stood near the edge of the platform, waiting for the train. I took it that most of them were going to shop at MidValley.

The train to Seremban arrived at 1.24pm. Announcements to urge passengers to stand clear of the yellow zone, move into the middle of the trains, and not to block the doors were immediately made. And I quickly understood why.

Once the doors of the trains pulled open, the near-thousand (i wouldn't be surprised if there were over a thousand) people squeezed towards them. Oh, the typical Malaysian spirit! Keep it up! Malaysia boleh! The assistant police officers employed kept tapping at the windows, asking passengers in the trains to move to the very centre of the train, a common courtesy unknown to many. When it was apparent that the train could accomodate not a single more passenger, they blew their whistle and started to cut the crowd away from the doors.

When the train pulled off, there was still that many passengers left on the platform that I was sure one train wouldn't be enough for them. A few of them were cursing. "We've waited for half and hour and we still can't get in!" I actually knew of a recipe to secure a seat in cases like this, but I kept my mouth tight. After all, this recipe wouldn't help reduce the crowd and will only benefit individuals.

Then another announcement was made.
"The next train to Seremban will be arriving in 25 minutes' time."

What?! There were hundreds of passengers waiting on the platforms and you're telling me the next train is bound to arrive in a minimum of 25 minutes' time? By then, well, I wouldn't dare to imagine how crowded the platforms will be!

But the worst is yet to come.
"Please be informed that due to technical errors at the end stations, all trains to Seremban will experience a 25 minutes delay from their schedule. Thank you."

Yes, you're welcome.

My train to Port Klang arrived at platform 5 few minutes after that. It was a lucky thing that although I couldn't get a seat in the train, there were ample standing capacity left. I stood leaning beside the door, took out my phone, and typed this article throughout the journey back home.

It seemed like although the LRT has many weaknesses, it is apparent that RapidKL is doing its best to improve its services. I mean, just compared my two experiences with the LRT and the Komuter!

Before I leave, I would like to wish everyone a happy new year again. Please be noted that today is not the day for you to shop.

And when you do, please remember the purpose of celebrating the new year - you'll be getting a new calendar.

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