LAST_UPDATEMon, 23 Jul 2018 9am

No Toll Hike Offer Can Put Road Safety At Risk, Says Safety Expert

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 -- The offer of a no toll hike for 20 years by the takeover bidder of the North-South Expressway (PLUS) can put road safety at risk as it will have problems in financing the sharp rise in maintenance costs, according to an occupational safety expert.

Dr Mohamad Syazli Fathi, Deputy Director of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's Occupation Safety, Health and Environment Unit, is skeptical about the offer against the backdrop of the ever exponential price increases in material costs, especially that of bitumen and cement.

This, coupled with the imminent rise in maintenance and operational costs would negate whatever extra income coming from the increase in traffic along the 772-km stretch spanning the entire Peninsular Malaysia, he said.

"Something has got to go should there be a no toll hike, putting road safety at risk," he told Bernama in joining the ongoing public debate over the plan by Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd which has announced a RM36 billion bid to take over PLUS from its present owners, UEM Group and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

Along with the bid, Maju Holdings says it won't hike toll charges for 20 years.

Dr Syazli, who heads the university's Construction Quality and Maintenance (CQM) Reseach Group, said the maintenance of superhighways like PLUS was not as seamless as the public would like to believe given the fact that as more and more economic activity and construction took place with the opening up of the new areas, the environment impact would be more adverse as with their greater wear and tear.

What many do not realise was climate change that could only become more obvious in the future, he added.

"For example, normally when we talk about the annual floods, we think only of the East Coast states like Kelantan and Terengganu. But, now we have floods in Johor, Kedah and some other states," he said.

PLUS has had also to bear huge costs in resurfacing and maintenance of the various slopes by means of latest technology like the use of sensor which have become more and more expensive.

Highway users should also take this into account why a toll hike was unavoidable.

"Despite all this, PLUS only hikes its toll by just 5.0 per cent every three years compared with up to 40 per cent by the other 17 concessionaires and has had no increase since 2005. I believe they are able to do these because UEM and EPF are government-owned entities.

"They should remain in government control and it is very much in the interest of the 14.5 million EPF members who benefit from these investments," said Dr Syazli.