Where’s traffic impact study for highway takeover, says expert

PETALING JAYA: A transport expert has urged the government to publish the traffic impact assessment study for a proposed takeover of four toll highways.

Speaking to FMT, consultant Goh Bok Yen said media reports had only been about the financial model of the takeover and the savings road users can enjoy.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said recently there had been Cabinet agreement in principle to buying Gamuda Bhd’s stake in four Klang Valley highways for RM6.2 billion. However, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad later said no decision had been made.

Goh said: “We have yet to see any transport impact assessment report, right now the takeover essentially sounds like we’ll see a differential pricing system, and this I believe, changes very little.”

Those who need to take toll roads during peak hours would be likely to continue doing so. However the government would receive lower toll collections as a result of discounted rates or zero-collections outside of the peak periods.

“But after taking over the toll, the government still needs to maintain the highway, including paying for utilities like lights.”

The traffic impact assessment (TIA) was all important as it would ultimately tell whether the takeover was feasible or not, Goh said.

“They need to publish this because it is of public interest: without it, any arguments on the supposed benefits of the takeover do not hold water,” said Goh who has over 30 years of consulting experience.

Goh added that a takeover of the tolls would also not help the government fulfil its pledge of reducing tolls.

He said it would be better if the government diverted the billions intended for the takeover towards developing alternative, toll-free routes or public transport to help reduce the traffic on tolled roads.

Meanwhile, another transport consultant, Rosli Azad Khan said he believed the government needs to review its decision-making structure before deciding on the takeover.

“Previously, when it comes to tolls, the works ministry had full control over the management of tolls, roads and highways.

“From what we are seeing in the media, it looks like the finance ministry is taking the lead in this matter which is strange because it shouldn’t be involved in talking about things like congestion charges or traffic in the city.”

He said those involved should be the works ministry, along with the Federal Territories ministry, relevant state governments and the transport ministry. “So far, we have not heard much from them. The government needs to identify who plays what role in this issue because now, things look haywire.”

Government decisions, he said, needed to be driven by the relevant ministries and facts, which in this case, are things like TIA studies.