Frazzled rail commuters heading to Malaysia's largest city Thursday found a surprising passenger in their midst: Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Abdullah, who has sought to carve a public-friendly image, set aside protocol and hopped aboard trains with morning rush-hour crowds for a firsthand experience of complaints plaguing Kuala Lumpur's public transport system.
Abdullah told the national news agency, Bernama, after his one-hour journey from the city outskirts that he was "not happy with (the public transport) because the people are not getting satisfaction from riding the trains."
Abdullah failed twice to board the train he wanted because it was packed, Bernama reported. After getting on board, he chose to stand despite being offered seats by other passengers and had to switch trains to complete the trip to the city center.
"I just saw the plight of people using the trains to get to work every morning," he said. "They were jostling to get on board every time a train arrived. ... People push their way in; women with children and old people are pushed aside."
Public transport use has grown after the government hiked retail gasoline prices in June. Authorities have encouraged commuters to use buses and trains, but many people complain that public transportation is inefficient.
Unlike many other major metropolises, Kuala Lumpur doesn't have a subway or an integrated mass rail transit system. It has a single-line elevated monorail that serves mostly the downtown area, and a commuter train service connecting very few suburbs. Bus service is erratic and unreliable.