Why is MRT track being built so close to houses?

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It is unfortunate that in the race to push Malaysia to become a developed nation, we chose to focus on the building of buildings, car plants, a new government centre and many other catalytic projects.

What we forgot to do was adequately connect these job and leisure hot spots to communities with world-class public transportation.

What this has resulted in is the retro-fitting of major urban public transportation network into existing, established residential and commercial areas. Since it is retro-fitting, the existing laws also do not adequately cover all the scenarios arising from such construction.

A good example is the MRT network that is being fast-tracked in the Klang Valley.

The main issue arising from the 9.5km underground tunnel construction was that the people above ground were not aware of the laws that permitted tunnelling underneath their properties.

In fact, even the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad), the regulator, was not aware of such provisions until it was pointed out.

The use of the Land Acquisition Act should only be used following not only the letter, but the spirit of the law.

Most importantly, there must be transparency and frequent communications with affected parties on the use and effect of the law on them.

Another disturbing point to note is the proximity of the MRT line along the houses in Jalan Damansara, just after Victoria Station.

The construction is basically metres away from the kitchens of the houses situated on a slope. And we have certainly seen enough of hillslope tragedies.

Even the Peninsula Hotel down the road is not spared as the line will run just four metres away from the nearest hotel room window.

The Sinaran apartments and houses along Pinggir Zaaba are also similarly affected.

The question is - what are the laws governing how near or far a railway line or track must be from a residential property.

To my knowledge, the Railway Act provides for a buffer of six metres on both sides of the track to protect the track from damage and vandalism.

Given that legal position, are the relevant sections of the MRT line illegal and open to challenges from suffering residents?

As this is a matter of public and community interest, we expect an answer from MRT Corp on the matter.

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