Saturday, December 23, 2006

Increase in toll rates must be justified

The authorities may have many reasons to justify the planned increase in the toll rates come Jan 1. Some of their reasons may have merit and need to be considered positively. On the contrary, as consumers, most Malaysians would vehemently oppose moves which would pinch their pockets.

The peoples’ displeasure to the toll rate increase is based on two factors. These are the prevailing traffic congestion and the deplorable condition of highways. There is also the unfair double taxation where one has to pay both road taxes and increasing toll charges.

Paying toll, most would agree, is inevitable for the convenience enjoyed and for comfort of travel. The question here is whether the prevailing traffic and road conditions really justify the frequent increase in toll rates.

Our highways have become heavily congested and today’s traffic jams are common even on dual carriage highways and expressways. Despite all the highways, one has to cope with the traffic crawl everyday, which is causing so much stress and inconvenience to city dwellers.

In fact, we have to pay for inconvenience and hardship - not convenience and comfort. Furthermore, many of our highways are in a deplorable state with potholes, poor drainage and lighting. They appear to be in state of constant repair, which adds to the traffic jams which in turn, causes more inconvenience and dangers to the road users.

The facilities along the Plus highway are grossly inadequate and not well-maintained. The rest areas are overcrowded especially during festive seasons and long weekends. Most of these areas are inconvenient and not conducive for resting when breaking a long journey.

There is also increasing frustration with the non-transparent manner in which money collected from road tax is spent on maintaining our roads and highways. There is a need for more openness on the expenditure of public funds for such purposes. If this is done, Malaysians will be more amenable to further toll increases.

While paying toll may be inevitable, it is not fair to keep increasing the toll rates without a parallel increase in the quality of the highways and associated facilities. Attitudes like, ‘If you want it, you pay for it’ will only aggravate the anger and frustration. None of us want traffic jams but we not only have them but are also forced to pay for them.

Dr.Chris Antnony

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