Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Minuses than PLUS

About a year ago I wrote on this same matter regarding traffic management during festive seasons to reduce possible congestions on the (PLUS) highway and the Federal Highway. PLUS then responded that they took note of the issues and had instituted measures to prevent such a situation. I am not sure how effective these measures were during the festive seasons upto the first day of Chniese New Year, last Thursday when I had first hand experience.

Granted, there will be more vehicles on the road but on that particular morning when I was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh the following were observed and experienced:

1. No proper and adequate traffic management initiatives was visible. Two lanes were open along the upgraded section between Sg Buloh and Tapah. The third lane though has been completed was not in use. Flexible posts were erected to demarcate the boundary between that third lane and the other lane in use. Unfortunately, there were some mindless road users who chosed to drive thru the lane, not only creating danger to other users but creating more bottlenecks further ahead when there was any obstruction. There was nobody monitoring or controlling this blatant breach of traffic rules. It was almost who dares win. Sad to say, most of the offenders were those driving MPV, SUV and big vehicles. Then, somewhere along the same stretch a contra flow lane was opened along the southbound lane. Hence there were 'four' lanes for the northbound traffic. One would have thought that traffic would flow smoothly. Unfortunately it didn't. The reason? Both the contra flow lane and the 'unofficial/emergency' lane merged to the two operational lanes at the same location. So, obviously a severe bottleneck was created. Only one guy, probably a labourer was trying to direct the traffic or rather to 'civilize' the drivers. How could that be possible if PLUS had spent more time with scenario planning? I am sure this simple matter need no Angkasawan standard to figure it out. As a result of this omission (or minus) on PLUS's side how many users were inconvenienced, let alone those who missed appointments since it took at least two additional hours to get to Ipoh.

2. The 1-800 PLUS line is displayed everywhere along the highway, on the toll tickets and everywhere else deemed relevant to the PLUS. It was supposed to be the contact point for people wanting information on situation along the highway. For instance, with better information, one could come up with another plan like exiting at the next point. It was most regretful that my calls went unaswered for the best part of the period I was stuck in the jam. It was almost one hour between 10.30 nad 11.30 am. I was indeed in real need of a service from PLUS. But where are they? It is a pity for every PLUS highway users to be put into this kind of predicament yet still having to pay the same amount for toll at the end of the highway. No wonder they keep making money. Can't PLUS spend some thot to have a better management system at the control or call centre? Whatever the reason offered, it is really an excuse. If they had to attend many calls at the same time, can't they come up with a better telephony which can put the callers in queue and to be attended to?

3. As an alternative, I made a few calls to the Bukit Aman traffic control centre. What a surprise! Every call was attended to promptly with a lot of smile. Syabas to Kpl Roslan and the team! Although their resources are also limited i.e. relying on information provided by their field team, which incidently consisted of one peronda and a helicopter, at least they rendered better service than the other party, at least from my experience on that day.

In short, being the operator of the main trunk access from North to South of the Peninsular, PLUS should do more and better. I dont think they would require a lot of money to get this done. Even if they do, it will be not much compared to the amount collected during the festive period. Further more, PLUS would have nothing to lose but everything to gain while at the same time playing a role of a good corporate citizen contributing to the social well being of all Malaysians or at least those highway users. An effective and efficient traffic management would result in stress free trips especially when those trips are to improve family relationships and friendships among us.

It is my earnest hope that those in authority including the Majlis Keselamatan Jalanraya, Jabatan Kerja Raya, Polis Di Raja Malaysia could work together with PLUS and other relevant local authorities to come up with a comprehensive traffic management plan before the next festive or holiday seasons. This would definitely further enhance our domestic tourism industry because judging by the increasing number of vehicles already on the road/highway and with more to come on stream, the upgraded PLUS Highway alone would not guarantee a better travelling experience.

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