WITH the recent toll hike, most highway users will be paying up to 80% more per trip using the highways in Klang Valley.
We cannot turn back the clock. We can criticise and we can blame, but we cannot change what was inked in those concession agreements.
Currently, we have at least three controversial proposed highways that require the state government’s approval to proceed – the Damansara Shah Alam Highway (DASH), the Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) and the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE).
All three highways have been met with strong objections from various parties for reasons that include bad alignment planning, dangerous threat to homes, forest reserves and the environment, and bulldozing through already highly dense townships which see no need for such monstrous elevated highways.
In addition to this was the promise Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali made to the people when he took over from his predecessor, that he would review all the proposed highways going through Selangor and ensure they met with the following three conditions prior to the state’s approval:
• The concessionaire must provide a traffic impact and other relevant studies demonstrating substantial benefit for commuters in terms of reducing traffic congestion and travel time.
• There must be full transparency on the rate of return of the highway, including the toll rates to be charged. This is to ensure that there will be no astronomical profits for the concessionaire and unfair burden on the users.
• In line with the transparency and accountability practice of the Selangor government, Azmin also demanded that the concession agreement must be fully disclosed to the public, not just the mentri besar and the state legal advisers.
The failure to meet these conditions is the very reason Kidex failed to obtain the state government’s approval and was subsequently cancelled, amid strong objections from the affected residents.
Yet, after the cancellation of Kidex, these three conditions seem to have conveniently been swept aside and forgotten for the rest of the proposed highways. Why?
The DASH highway for one, despite having outdated and non-thorough traffic impact studies, showed little or no benefit whatsoever to the Damansara segment of users who are already well-connected to other highways and will soon have the MRT and LRT nearby.
Furthermore, the second and third conditions have not been met at all.
With a 65-year concession period – which seems by far the longest concession period for the tolled highways in the state, DASH could very well fall into the same conundrum as all the existing highways – from toll hikes to government compensations.
As a rakyat of Selangor, who is a salaried worker with a house bought with my hard-earned money, and I know there are many like me, I am urging the state government to protect its people. Protect us from ill-planned highways that promise connectivity but yet bring threats to our homes and environment. Protect us from badly-designed highways that promise to ease congestion but end up with ridiculous bottlenecks in densely developed townships like Damansara Perdana, and protect us from toll increases we are subjected to at the whims of the concessionaires.
As the rakyat, we have no say in inking these concession agreements but the government does have a say. Be transparent and accountable to us.
We are all for development, but good planning is badly needed. RM4.18bil for a highway can surely garner better and sustainable planning for a good road network or even public transportation than what it is currently proposing.
Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya