TRAFFIC congestion along the Federal Highway Route 2 (FHR2) will reduce when the cash lanes are removed from two toll collection points along the route beginning Sept 1.
This means only the Touch ’n Go card, SmartTAG and PLUS Miles card can be used at the two collection points, namely Sungai Rasau and Batu Tiga — with a rate of RM1 and RM1.10, respectively.
The introduction of the electronic toll collection (ETC) system at the tolls will lead to faster transactions and result in a smoother traffic flow on the highway stretch.
According to studies, the transaction time for cash payment is 15 seconds per vehicle, Touch ’n Go is six seconds, and SmartTAG only three seconds.
On average, the toll booth can only accommodate 400 vehicles per hour for cash lanes, 550 vehicles for Touch ’n Go, and 1,000 vehicles for SmartTAG lanes.
“We are doing this at the two toll collection points first because they have been identified as the most congested so far,” said PLUS Malaysia Bhd managing director Datuk Noorizah Abd Hamid.
She added that the other four most congested booths are the Plaza Ebor on the Elite Highway, Plaza Pantai Dalam (New Pantai Expressway), Plaza Keramat (KL-bound) (Akleh) and Plaza A (Penang Bridge).
All these toll booths have been earmarked by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) to be converted to 100% ETC as soon as possible, starting with the two FHR2 tolls.
“We are confident that this move will be successful as the 100% ETC is already being implemented at five toll booths in Johor Baru,” she said.
In 2008, the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar toll plaza was the first to migrate to the 100% ETC system.
Noorizah assured motorists that the top-up counters would operate 24 hours, with at least two lanes open every day.
In addition to that, the booths would also sell Touch ’n Go cards and the PLUS Miles cards.
Based on studies done by PLUS, the traffic congestion in the morning was after 9.30am.
By implementing the ETC, PLUS expected all toll booths at the toll plaza to be equally utilised, as there would no longer be a long line at the cash lane.
Also, a multi-class system for heavy vehicles, public transportation and taxis would be available at most ETC lanes.
“There will be someone sitting inside the toll booth counter to handle the multi-class payment, so they need not rely on the cash lanes like previously,” she said.
In addition, PLUS would have portable readers on standby for emergencies if the electronic system malfunctioned.
The portable readers would be able to read all ETC systems and PLUS staff would be on hand to assist at all lanes.
Another issue cited was unreadable SmartTAGs.
If a SmartTAG was unreadable or wrongly placed, the Touch ’n Go card reader at the lane would be activated for drivers to use.
“Instead of blocking the lane, they can now use their Touch ’n Go card to pass through,” she said.
Motorists who want receipts from the toll booths, could proceed to the two left-most lanes to get the receipts printed.
Motorists have also been advised to go online to print the transaction statements and receipts.
To date, there was a daily record of about 161,816 vehicles passing through the Batu Tiga toll and about 111,563 vehicles passing the Sungai Rasau toll.
Over 70% of these vehicles are already using the ETC system as of July.
“Our internal target is for at least 70% ETC usage at a certain toll booth before the 100% ETC migration can take place.
“For both Sungai Rasau and Batu Tiga, we have reached that target, therefore we are implementing the 100% ETC there,” said Noorizah.
To implement this, PLUS had allocated RM10mil to subsidise their PLUS Miles card.
With only RM5, motorists would be able to obtain a PLUS Miles card for free with a RM5 top-up value inside.
A PLUS Miles card operates on the Touch ’n Go platform but aims to reward PLUS highway users through rebates. Also, RM2.1mil had been allocated to subsidise the cost of the SmartTAG.
The original price is RM120 but the current promotional rate was RM99 with a condition that users have to top-up at least RM30.
A million PLUS Miles cards and 100,000 SmartTAGs have been allocated for this promotion, which available while stocks last.
SmartTAGs could be purchased from PLUS highway customer service centres near the FHR2 toll booths which would be open daily from 7am to 10pm.
The ETC is in line with MHA’s long-term goal of moving to cashless transactions.
“We are also hoping to get everyone on board to use the SmartTAG instead of the Touch ’n Go card,” said MHA director-general Datuk Ismail Md Salleh.
By 2009, MHA hoped to implement 100% ETC at all toll plazas nationwide.
By 2020, MHA planned to implement the Multi Lane Free Flow (MLFF) system, which did not require cars to stop at toll booths.
An overhead beam fitted with sensors would be used to sense tags placed in vehicles for motorists to drive through without stopping.