Monday, February 13, 2012

Can a Government Be Really that Incompetent or is There a More Sinister Plan for Johor Baru?

Everyone in Johor area knows about the proposed EDL toll that they want to collect at JB's CIQ.
As I predicted earlier, the LTA of Singapore has already indicated that it will match whatever toll is collected at the CIQ.
Already Malaysia made the mistake of spending the RM2bil CIQ with the crooked bridge that leads nowhere and one that hardly improves on the traffic problem during long week-ends.
So motorists using the Causeway might face a double whammy. The total tolls for both sides might add up to RM40.
During the past week, there has been a write-up about the ambitious plans to develop a new waterfront city that covers a wide swarth of land from Danga Bay to Stulang Laut with international land developers.
Such a development could take another 5 to 10 years and surely the influx of Singaporeans is vital for such a major development to be successful.
So is the Malaysian government being incompetent to propose the EDL tolls at the CIQ? Or is there a grand conspiracy to drive business and land-owners in JB area awayfrom the city so that land prices will be driven down with the tolls?
In another 3 years, after the business exodus is confirmed and property prices have dropped, there could be large land areas in JB available at cheap sale.
After enough land has been bought cheaply, the tolls at CIQ can be removed and hopefully, JB will see a revival.
That's my RM2 worth of conspiracy theory. Or the government could really be incompetent!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How Does the Government Make Decisions? The Unjust EDL TOLLS

It is a fact that highways have a major economic impact on the economy.
A strategic highway like the North-South Highway played a major role in improving the transport infrastructure in peninsular Malaysia.
There is an interesting read here on Toll roads arond the world where you will learn that Malaysia is not the first nation to impose tolls but certainly it must be the first nation that keeps on extending the toll life instead of taking back the BOT projects.
So how does the Government arrive at such a decision? More importantly, why do motorists just agree to keep on paying?
The rationale for adding on more life to a tolled highway is quite dubious. Usually there are some road enhancements like an additional lane in some stretches but surely such normal development should be considered part of the operating expenses? After all, increased traffic translates into higher revenues and also longer jams.
If you consider the inhumane traffic jams suffered by motorists during festive seasons like Raya and Chinese New Year, we should review the conditions under which tolls can be collected.
Where is the logic when you pay tolls for a nice highway and then have to wait one hour at each toll booth?
One short term solution is to stop toll collections during the 3 major holiday holidays and use it a a CSR campaign as motorists will really enjoy a nice holiday. I am sure the stress driving during the CNY jams would have shortened the lives of some Malaysians.
The longer term solution of course is to revamp the toll collection system. It is really simple to use the system used in Singapore where the toll is collected without the driver having to slow down. Why do we stick to slow and inefficient systems like Smart-tag and Touch n Go when they cannot cope with festive seasons?
Maybe during festive seasons it may be better to avoid the tolled highways and use the main trunk roads. The traffic may be slower but you won't have to queue for an hour to pay tolls. However you need to be more careful as many drivers will be newbies.
Along the NSH, many smaller towns have become deserted as motorists did not stop for a break as the detour was too long and many of the small towns became ghost towns.
A similar case can happen to Johor Baru with the opening of the EDL.All the shops and petrol stations along the Tebrau Highway will experience at least a 30% reduction in traffic flow(=business) as people head directly in the city centre.
So far no word has been mentioned of the proposed tolls to be collected at the CIQ and why the government decided on this "Everyone pays at CIQ" idea without even telling the good people of Johor Baru how they arrived at this "brilliant" concept of "Pay As You Don't Use".
In many nations, a new highway is not even CONSIDERED before the locals are consulted. But in Bolehland, they award a secret deal, build the highway and then declare "Eveyone Must Pay" and expect people to be like sheep and just bleat.
So where is the study on the economic impact of this highway? Maybe like the LYNAS project, they are still compiling the report.
So if you want to petition against this highway,please go to No Extra Tolls at JB's CIQ. The government needs to know we do not accept this kind of taxation.

photo: CNY traffic snarl on NSH(thanks to Alden Kho)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The EDL Injustice and how to Eliminate the Tolls at the CIQ

The proposed compulsory tolls proposed at the CIQ is a grave injustice. Maybe it will go into the Guiness Book of World Records as the first toll whereby motorists who do not use the highway have to pay and those who use the 8.2km highway to get to the city centre do NOT have to pay. I guess they used "fuzzy logic" to come up with this toll rationale.
I don't expect Johorians who already have to bear with the higher cost of living in the city will accept this quietly, especially those who travel to Singapore frequently.
Since toll booths were not constructed anywhere along the highway, it is still possible to construct toll gantries similar to the ERP employed on Singapore's roads. This highway could be the front-runner in Malaysia with an advanced system of toll collections. Those ERP gantries do not require reduced vehicle speeds in order to collect tolls.
Consider the hour-long plus jams during the recent Chinese New Year holidays for "balik kampong", motorists have to spend hours just to pay tolls. Why spend hours in a jam because the toll companies have such an inefficient collection system?
Erecting such ERP gantries would take about 2 months during which the software etc can be tested. Seeing that Singapore already has been using the ERP system for many years, it is definitely a proven system.

How about removing the toll system altogether? My idea is that Johor state government will buy this project from MRCB after an audit of the project accounts. The price paid will be based on a reasonable cost basis for at more than RM1bil, this 8.2km highway is too expensive compared to other highway projects. With a proper tender process, the project would probably be about RM700mil. Since the highway benefits the people of Johor Baru,the state can recover the project costs with an increase in assessment for all properties within 5km of any access road to join the EDL. For example, RM150 per annum for residential properties and RM500per annum for commerical and industrial properties for the next 20 years only. The actual amounts may vary but it would be a transparent collection system to pay for the EDL.
Of course having a new highway for free would be nice but as the saying goes, "There ain't no FREE LUNCH!"

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

malaysiakini and the BURDEN of TOLLS.....

Like the national car projects that never really grew up after even 30 years of government protection, the tolled highways are a major burden that motorists have to bear.
malaysiakini has this article headed aPemandu told to halt RM7bil expressway project while the Malaysian Insider has the DAP MP asking the government toSuspend and review highway deal

The EDL is another innovative tolled project that connects to the CIQ in Johor Baru. This 8.2km highway has been designed so that anyone who uses the Causeway to Singapore has to pay the toll, even though the person never drove the vehicle on the new highway.....a kind of stealth highway robbery!

One unique feature about all the highway projects is the government NEVER calls for an open tender and thus taxpayers have to absorb the exorbitant and unexplained costs for a product and service that is easy to quantify.

Even if one takes a brief look at the RM7bil highway and the RM1bil EDL, the cost difference is too significant.

I suggest the following for all highway projects costing RM200mil and above:
1.Open tender to receive at least 4 bids, otherwise retender.
2.Profit capped at 50% of project costs OR 15 years after tolls collected; whichever is earlier.
3.Rates for all highways to be fixed at tender exercise and this will be a slight variation from the NSH. Example: Highway less than 10km(NSH plus 20%),
10km to 50km(NSH plus 15%),100km to 200km(NSH plus 10%)

I have created an Open Facebook Group 1 Million Motorists say "NO" to UNFAIR Toll Charges at Johor Baru CIQ and those who protest the toll can sign an online petition that takes one minute The Minister of Works of MALAYSIA: No extra TOLLS at Johor Baru CIQ for Motorists who do not use EDL highway
They say,"GOD helps those who help themselves." So this is one simple action you can take to sign a petition and tell the PM what you think of his 1Malaysia schemes.