PETALING JAYA: Despite the toll freeze next year, the government should spend on improving the public transport system in the Klang Valley, say consumer groups.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Dr Paul Selvaraj said the onus was on the authorities to create a reliable public transport system.
“It is clear to all Malaysians that cost of living is a critical concern, with transport costs taking a huge chunk out of this.
“While the toll hike freeze will no doubt result in some savings, more should be done to make public transport convenient, especially in the first and last mile connectivity that is still missing,” he said here yesterday.
Paul added that a comprehensive bus system with improved connectivity, comfort and frequency from MRT and LRT stations was necessary to drive commuters to leave their cars at home when travelling in the Klang Valley.
He was commenting on the announcement that toll hikes along 21 highways would be frozen next year.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said the freeze would incur the government an estimated RM972.75mil in compensation to the concessionaires.
The hike would have seen an increase of between 20 sen and RM1.
Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris said highways had not helped to ease traffic congestion in the Klang Valley.
“Most households have more than a car. Priority should be given to the improvement of the public transport system,” he said.
Many Malaysians want lower or no toll at all.
Expressing his relief, editor Hendrick Tan said since he lived in the Klang Valley, he had to pay toll almost everywhere he went.
“I thought the new government was going to abolish all tolls.
“It seems like I still need to pay toll every day,” said the 35-year-old from Klang.
Tan said he was happy about the freeze, adding that he spent over RM200 on tolls every month.
Amy Amirah, 33, who commutes regularly between Selangor and Negri Sembilan, said she was concerned about the year after next.
“The freeze sounds good, but it is only for a year. After that, everything is possible, even a two-fold hike,” she said.
Lauding the freeze, graphic designer Lily Kasim called on the government to keep toll low for the benefit of the people.
“Transportation costs take a big chunk out of what I earn. With rising living costs, it is challenging to live cheap.
“With the absence of a good public transport system, we don’t have much choice but to drive to work,” said the 38-year-old.
She added that while abolishing toll would be impossible in view of the country’s financial position, the government could still impose lower fees at certain hours or days to “compensate” for its broken promise.
Illustrator Fitri Mohd, 34, who works in Shah Alam, said he could only afford to go back to his hometown in Perak once a month as each trip would cost him about RM150 in fuel and toll charges.
Self-employed Hafiz Hadi, 35, who uses the Guthrie Corridor Expressway and the North Klang Valley Expressway frequently for work, said any hike should be kept at between 10 sen and 20 sen.
“It is okay to increase the toll due to many factors, but not until it burdens people who have to travel often to make a living,” he said.
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