Thursday, February 17, 2011

malaysiakini and the Mystery of the RM10mil Walkway....

malaysiakini has this story We can build walkway cheaper, says KL mayor in which the latter justifies the decision based on cost comparisons with HongKong and Singapore, two cities that have a higher standard of living.
Here are some details gleaned from the article:
1. The walkway length is 152 meters long but it is not certain if this includes the 10meter mentioned later in the article. It seems that an extra 10meters was added after the project was awarded.

The malaysiakini article quotes:
"Answering to why the initial cost of the project (which was RM7.5 million) and now amounts to RM9.5 million, Ahmad Fuad said an extra 10 metre walkway was added between the two links."

This creates an even bigger mystery.
So the original walkway was 152 meters and cost RM7.5m and they agreed to buy another 10meters for an additional RM2m.
What kind of tender committee makes this type of decision?
Also it is mentioned that there were seven contractors. As there is such a major price difference based on the variation order of RM2mil, were all the contractors offered the same chance to bid for the extra works?

Looks like we got suckered again!

photo: thanks to malaysiakini

Friday, February 11, 2011

Update on Johor Baru's RM1.3bil CIQ (a WIP)

It is almost 2 years since the RM1.3bil CIQ was opened but sadly there are still major teething problems for this rushed job.
If you remember correctly, this was the major project announced just before TDM retired as the Prime Minister. As with many mega-projects, this one did not have an open tender to establish competitive prices.
So how does the new CIQ compare with the old one that was demolished? To me, the only benefit for motorists is that you don't need to drive through the city centre, thereby easing the city's congestion. However for most business owners that is bad news and some owners have had to close shop.
As far as driving through the new CIQ is concerned, it all depends on how many immigration booths are operating and if insufficient stations are open, the queue backs up and can be quite bad. I wonder what are the performance standards set for the CIQ?
Like traffic should not back up more than 300meters?
Even as the CIQ was opened two years back, there was an announcement that a multi-million ringgit project variation was being planned; in order to eliminate the long and winding road that was put in.
As the picture shows, this so-called improvement does not help much, especially for buses that have to share 2 lanes with cars.The blocked section on the right is for lorries and buses have to move about 250 meters further up before a special bus lane begins.

This new road has made about 5km of brand new carriageway redundant and one can see the old approach for cars of the new complex being dug up.

Barely used for two years, this is surely the result of poor planning and the rush to complete the project after Singapore refused to allow the bridge construction.

This used to be the first approach of cars to the brand new CIQ but it was at the end of a long and winding stretched that snaked from the old CIQ about 1.5km to the new CIQ complex that is on top of Bukit Chagar.The winding section is no longer in used and hence the removal of the redundant section. No doubt the rubble can be used for land-fill but it is a very expensive method to execute projects. So far they have not published the final cost for the CIQ project and a cost over-run of 20% or RM260mil will not be surprising as all the construction equipment is still on site and nebulous variation orders are being carried out.

What are facilities like for pedestrians?

(photo:thanks to
Sadly the designers for the CIQ never took the needs of pedestrians into account. I guess none of them used public transport anyway to understand the difficulties for bus passengers. I estimate that a pedestrian from Singapore walks 800meters after alighting from a bus to City Square whereas a person who starts from JB walks about 1200m from the drop-off point opposite City Square to the point where one can queue for the bus.

The next photo, taken from a bus that drops passengers at the CIQ, shows that the road here is always congested with many buses that stop here.
One problem is that many cars also head to this part of town, with cars going to the JB Central car park on the left and City Square on the right. Of course many buses also simply wait by the road-side to wait for passengers.

There are usually 2 policemen on duty under the porch area but they are more for security than traffic control. The JPJ patrol this area frequently mainly to scare off errant bus drivers and motorists rather then issue tickets on a consistent basis.
Just like the JPJ enforcement, a pedestrian can never be sure of how his or her journey is going to be affected by the constant changing of bus stops and whether one has to lug luggage just down the CIQ or another 400meters to the old Railway Station where there is another designated bus stop.
If you study the photo on the left, the buses are dropping off passengers under the covered area and the signage is correct - bus stop on the left side under the flat roofed area while the right side is for Emergencies(in Red)
Never mind that they have built concrete benches for easy access on the right side of the covered area!

Then about 2 weeks ago, they dug up a section of the new road where the buses are supposed to travel and also blocked off the entrance so that now the entire entrance to the CIQ is blocked by buses stopping on the main road. Of course this makes the traffic chaos between City Square and the CIQ even worse.

This photo on the left, taken from under the porch of the new CIQ shows buses blocking the entrances to the JB Central car park and the CIQ.

The bus stop at the Railway Station is about 300meters from the CIQ and the curious thing is that buses don't stop at the bus stop properly but stop just under the pedestrian bridge and so passengers may have to rush for buses.
Of course some bus drivers also don't bother to stop and simply ignore the passenger's frantic waving.
Be warned though that there is ZERO information at the bus stop - no indication of bus numbers and no route information for the various buses. But bus drivers are usually helpful and will tell you if you are on the wrong bus and sometimes they will advise which number you should catch.
After spending RM2bil on such a mega-project, one would have expected a world-class CIQ but this project really sucks. It was dubbed the "crooked bridge" project but maybe we should rename it the "crooked CIQ" project.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

malaysiakini and how to Spend RM1billion on an OPV or LCS?

A picture paints a thousand words.
Please feel free to amend the numbers and work out how much you would accept as overcharging?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Poor Design of Johor Baru's Multi-Million Ringgit Office...

I went to the city's offices to pay assessment today and had a closer look at the new extension that was completed about a year ago.
I would guess the cost of this building at maybe RM20mil and you will see from the photo that the original size of the MBJB's Office is about more than doubled the original size.
The new office to pay bills is well-staffed but I don't understand why they need two guys to tell you which counter to go to and also tell you which queue button to press for the ticket to wait your turn. Definitely one of them is redundant!
In fact if they had proper signs, the queue ticket machine should be at the counter where you get your bill printed and I am sure 95% of us will get it right.
On my way back to the car, I noticed 2 examples of poor design for such a new building.

Near a small flight of steps between the old and new building was this unsightly grey PVC pipe to drain water directly onto the steps. Maybe they want you to wash your feet or shoes before you step into the premises?

Of course MBJB has the usual boast about service etc and ISO Certification.
I guess neither the Datuk Bandar nor the architect used a wheel-chair to evaluate the access to the new block. In fact the old building has a better access for the wheel-chair bound.

If you study the photos carefully, there is a ramp provided - in fact they built the ramp twice going by the different colours.
The white stripe represents the curb between the car-parking level and the office apron level, a height difference of about 100mm or 4 inches. Do you think a person in a wheel-chair can get to the ramp?
As I drove around the building, I noticed that they had incorporated a multi-level car park in the building for MBJB staff. WOW! that must be the ultimate luxury. Next visit I will check out the car park that must have cost rate-payers a few million.
Such an extravagent project that benefits only a few citizens. Now if only they improved public transport in the city, those staff could have parked in a cheap car park within 5km and taken a bus to work.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Helping FLOOD Victims in Johor.....

I went on a mission today to deliver some food supplies to a few Orang Asli villages in the Endau Rompin area. We were a small party, my brother James and other member of the Ara Bumi group, an NGO of Majodi that assists the Orang Asli.
We left at about 7:30am from JB and headed north on the PLUS Highway until we reached the Kluang exit.
We then drove along Route50 the main trunk road that leads to Mersing. The low-lying areas along both sides of the road had water on both sides and in some areas near the river it looked like a huge lake.

About a kilometer before Kahang we got stuck in a traffic jam for 500 metres. The low section in the road was under water about knee high and to make matters worse, a lorry with heavy equipment had broken down thereby blocking one half of the road at the flooded section. Luckily there was a policeman on duty and he took care of motorists patiently and with a smile. Well done!

We stopped in Kahang to re-fuel and then continued towards the Orang Asli villages.
The first place Kampong Sg.Tuba was not accessible and the road was flooded soon after turning off the trunk road - maybe 200 metres before the water reached knee height and we could not contact the villagers to come and collect their rations.
So we got back on the trunk road and we could now see vast tracts of low-lying area on both sides of the road that looked like huge lakes. A few isolated home were also half-submerged in the flood.
About 5km after Kahang, the road was closed and we had to leave the Ford Ranger to continue by boat. Luckily my brother had managed to contact the Orang Asli headman and he organised the boat transport. We took the boat for about 1km to another section where a car was waiting and were driven maybe 5km closer to the village. We then took another boat to the village where the goods had been delivered to inform them how the rations were to be divided.

The Orang Asli are a happy people but maybe their lives have become more complicated as some of their lands, the Endau Rompin forests have been cleared to make way for oil palms. Some plantation owners even prohibit them frm entering the cleared lands and thus their traditions are definitely being stifled. The children really seemed to enjoy playing in the water and it seemed like an opportunity for them to learn how to swim or boat.

When it was time to leave, our only worry was that the water level was rising and we were afraid the place where we had parked the Ford Ranger might be submerged but luckily the area there was wide and the water had risen by maybe 4inches.
The ride back was bumpy as the load had been unloaded and apart from water-sodden shoes, everything was fine.