Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bagaimana Lebuh Raya di Malaysia Berbeza Dengan Negara Lain / How Malaysia's Tolled Highways Differ From Others

Salam sejahtera,

Industri lebuh raya tol negara bermula dengan pembinaan jalan tol Tanjung Malim-Slim River FT1 pada tahun 1966. Ia disusuli dengan pembinaan Lebuhraya Karak yang dibuka pada tahun 1977. Pencapaian paling membanggakan dalam sejarah industri lebuh raya tol negara ialah apabila Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan E1 dan E2 siap sepenuhnya dan dibuka kepada lalu lintas pada Februari 1994, 15 bulan lebih awal daripada jadual.

Kejayaan yang dikecapi Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan seterusnya membawa kepada pertambahan bilangan lebuh raya ekspres bertol terutamanya di Lembah Klang. Sungguhpun demikian, integriti industri lebuh raya semakin dipertikaikan kerana projek lebuh raya baharu khususnya di Lembah Klang bukan sahaja gagal menangani masalah kesesakan di sana, malah beberapa syarikat konsesi yang tamak seakan cuba menangguk di air yang keruh kerana mengambil kesempatan daripada masalah ketidakcekapan sistem pengangkutan awam serta peratus pemilikan kereta yang tinggi di sana dengan mengaut keuntungan berlebihan hasil kutipan tol. Malah, beberapa lebuh raya seperti Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong E11 (LDP) bukan sahaja gagal memenuhi piawaian lebuh raya ekspres (kerana tiada kawalan masuk penuh), malah ia seakan-akan dibina sebagai perangkap untuk memaksa penghuni di kawasan yang dilaluinya untuk membayar tol kerana tiada laluan alternatif lain, sekaligus menjadi salah satu punca utama kos sara hidup yang tinggi di Lembah Klang. Dengan kata lain, "lebuh raya" seperti LDP E11 sebenarnya merupakan jalan arteri bertol, bukan lebuh raya ekspres, dan ia sepatutnya diturunkan statusnya kepada Jalan Persekutuan biasa sahaja.

Tambah parah, beberapa syarikat konsesi dikatakan "lebih berkuasa" daripada Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (LLM) yang sepatutnya memantau dan mengkaji setiap inci setiap projek lebuh raya, bermula daripada peringkat perancangan lagi. Lebuh raya ekspres bertol sepatutnya tidak boleh menggunakan jalan arteri sedia ada sama sekali. Jalan arteri sedia ada sepatutnya kekal percuma kepada rakyat. Jika tiada pilihan selain menggunakan jalan arteri sedia ada sekalipun, lebuh raya yang bakal dibina mestilah dalam bentuk lebuh raya bertingkat dengan sistem tol tertutup yang ternyata memberi lebih keadilan berbanding sistem tol terbuka. Namun, kegagalan dalam merancang sesuatu pembangunan menjadi punca utama mengapa projek lebuh raya gagal memberi manfaat sosio-ekonomi kepada kawasan yang dilaluinya, selain membebankan rakyat yang terpaksa membayar tol walaupun sekadar ke taman perumahan bersebelahan, serta menambah parah kesesakan di sana berikutan percampuran antara lalu lintas tempatan dengan lalu lintas luar.

Saya ingin tegaskan bahawa lebuh raya bertol sepatutnya dibina selari dengan jalan raya biasa sebagai laluan alternatif, bukan sebagai laluan utama. Jika sesebuah lebuh raya dibina sebagai laluan utama, maka ia mestilah percuma tanpa bayaran tol walau sesen pun, sebagaimana sistem lebuh raya Interstate di Amerika Syarikat. Lebuh raya tol sepatutnya berfungsi sebagai laluan alternatif bagi perjalanan jauh berkelajuan tinggi yang selesa dengan dikenakan sedikit bayaran; mereka yang tidak berkemampuan boleh terus menggunakan jalan lama yang mungkin lebih sesak. Namun, kegagalan menghayati konsep asas dalam perancangan projek lebuh raya tol inilah yang menjadi punca integriti industri lebuh raya Malaysia bukan sahaja dipertikaikan, malah dipolitikkan.

Sudah tiba masanya Akta Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (Perbadanan) 1980 dan Akta Jalan-jalan Persekutuan (Pengurusan Persendirian) 1984 dikaji semula dan dipinda bagi memberikan lebih kuasa kepada Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia untuk merancang, mengkaji laluan, mengkaji konfigurasi lebuh raya, serta memantau kutipan tol bagi memulihkan keyakinan rakyat terhadap integriti industri lebuh raya negara. Lebuh raya yang gagal memenuhi keperluan kawalan masuk penuh mestilah dilucutkan warta sebagai Lebuh Raya Ekspres dan diwartakan semula sama ada sebagai Jalan Persekutuan ataupun Jalan Negeri. Industri lebuh raya negara wajar mencontohi ketegasan Pentadbiran Lebuhraya Persekutuan Amerika Syarikat (FHWA) dalam menentukan sama ada sesebuah lebuh raya itu layak diwartakan sebagai lebuh raya Interstate atau tidak; misalnya, jajaran Lebuhraya Persekutuan US101 dari San Francisco ke Los Angeles sepatutnya layak diwartakan sebagai lebuh raya Interstate, tetapi masih tidak diluluskan oleh FHWA.

Sejajar dengan isu ini, saya ingin memetik rencana dari blog Politic of Malaysia Today serta Malaysians Must Know The Truth, di mana rencana asal ditulis oleh Dr. Rosli Khan. Saya ingin tegaskan bahawa pemilihan rencana ini bukan dilakukan atas dasar politik, tetapi dilakukan demi memulihkan kembali integriti industri lebuh raya negara. Terpulanglah kepada LLM serta para pemain industri ini untuk menerima kritikan pedas ini - jika sebilangan golongan yang tamak ini masih tidak serik, maka sampai bila-bila kisah kontroversi dan cerita-cerita tidak baik mengenai industri ini terus didendangkan.









How Malaysia's Tolled Highways Differ From Others


When the idea of building tolled highways first appeared in developed countries, planners and economists agreed that this type of highways should be built only as alternative roads.

In other words, a tolled highway should be built, more or less, in parallel to an existing road so that motorists have a choice. They could either continue use an existing road free of charge which, due to its limited capacity, would be congested at times; or they could use a new road, built with sufficient expressway capacity, so their journey times would be reduced, for a small fee.

This concept is considered acceptable socially and politically, and examples of such tolled highways can be found in many countries in Western Europe and across developed countries in Asia too. In these countries, principles of highway planning are closely followed. The interests of road users are considered vital and well looked after; tolled highways do not become political issues and if those tolled highways were privatized, they were done in a transparent and proper manner.

Also, how such an infrastructure affects the economic activities and social life of the people around it were also properly assessed so as to gain optimum benefits and minimise negative impact. Even more important is when it involves payments in the form of toll collection, which is mainly done by the government of these countries.

In Malaysia, when one examines this tolled highway concept against parallel roads built in Malaysia, one cannot help but feel disappointed.

Apart from the North-South Expressway (NSE) which was heavily scrutinised during the planning stage and which possess some elements of the parallel highway concept along some stretches of the old Federal road (Route 1), not many other expressways or highways in Malaysia were built using the same concept.

On the contrary, some of the old roads and earlier built highways were blatantly taken over and given to expressway concession companies to collect toll. Examples of such mishandling or planning contradictions include the old Federal highway with toll collection booths at Batu Tiga and Klang; KL-Seremban highway, Jalan Sungai Besi-Cheras, KL-Kajang highway, KL-Karak highway, New Pantai Expressway and the costly and much delayed Lebuhraya Pantai Timur (LPT).

Disregard for choice has been the hallmark of many newly planned highways. It was made worse by highway concession companies’ greed for more toll collections by maximising the number of vehicles on their roads.

Some of the highways were purposely designed to trap road users whereby they end up with no choice but to use these highways in their daily mobility. As Klang Valley is teeming with car owners and poorly equipped with public transport facilities, highway concession companies rushed in to select certain high demand routes and stamp their authority with more highways.

On the pretext of solving traffic congestion, their hidden agenda was actually huge profit margin that was driven by the high car ownership growth and limited capacity for public transport services.

It is obvious that after NSE, subsequent highways have been planned and built haphazardly in Malaysia. Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA), which is responsible for the construction, standards, management and usage of expressways under Federal Roads Act (Private Management) 1984, has done a mediocre job as far as policy and physical planning are concerned. Their mere existence is nothing but to facilitate the process of highway building by the highway concession companies whose rights to build have already been decided by those in the corridors of power.

Unlike the Highway Agency in the UK, a central body that holds jurisdictions on all matters pertaining to studying, planning, evaluating, contracting, building, operating and managing all motorways in the UK, MHA does not build or manage even a single expressway or highway. In fact, all expressways and highways in Malaysia today are in the hands toll concession companies, some of which are more powerful than MHA, in terms of their ability to dictate terms for their concessions!

Also, the sad truth is, there is no free highway in Malaysia today; all are tolled. This is despite the fact that road tax continues to be collected by the government in billions of ringgit every year.

- Dr Rosli Khan obtained his PhD in Transport Economics from Cranfield University, UK. He has been a practising consultant/company director in the last 25 years, being involved primarily in infrastructure development and economic policies.

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