KUALA LUMPUR - It has only been a week since the opening of Malaysia's newest subway line - and its owner MRT Corp has had to fork out thousands of ringgit to repair the damage caused by vandals at some of the MRT stations.
Scratches have been found on specially designed benches in at least four underground stations. Cigarette butts, a broomstick and a broken spotlight were discarded on the roof of a sheltered walkway. Even the toilets have not been spared, with at least one faucet at an MRT station toilet found to have been damaged.
The Star newspaper say the acts of vandalism have marred the image of the RM21 billion (S$6.7 billion) public transport project linking downtown Kuala Lumpur to housing estates on the north-west and south-eastern periphery of the Malaysian capital.
The first phase from Sungai Buloh to the Semantan station in Kuala Lumpur opened last December and the second phase connecting Semantan to Kajang became operational on July 17. Prime Minister Najib Razak, who officially opened the line last Monday, described the project as "a world-class project".
MRT Corp's (Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd) Strategic Communications and Stakeholder Relations director Najmuddin Abdullah said the MRT was a first-class facility, but pointed out that if Malaysians did not have a "first-class mentality", the company would have to "waste a lot of money and time unnecessarily to do the repair works", reported Malay Mail.
He said a closer examination showed that the gouges on the benches in at least four underground stations at Muzium Negara, Pasar Seni, Merdeka and Bukit Bintang were not accidentally caused by bags or other items. He said they were most likely acts of vandalism, adding that these benches, built based on winning entries in a design competition, stand out and become more inviting targets for vandals as compared with regular benches at above-ground stations.
"When it comes to teething problems for the MRT, one major issue is vandalism, as it's quite rampant," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
"We had to remove one of the benches to get it repaired and have spent RM10,000 to repair the damage caused so far."
Netizens have also slammed the acts of vandalism, with some calling for strict punishment for the offenders. Sevar Gill wrote in a Facebook comment that said stiffer penalties, including caning, should be imposed to deter future offenders. Another commenter by the name of Ronnie Cheam urged authorities to install more cameras since the MRT was a new project.
MRT Corp is the developer and owner of the 31-station Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line, while Rapid Rail Sdn Bhd is the operator of the line.