Expect Toll Hikes if Barisan Nasional (BN) wins the 14th General Election

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 28th of November 2017

Expect Toll Hikes if Barisan Nasional (BN) wins the 14th General Election

For those who still can remember, the BN Manifesto for the 13th General Election in 2013 promised ‘the gradual reduction of intra-city tolls’ (Figure 1 below). Since intra-city tolls are found mostly in the Klang Valley (KL and Selangor), one would have expected the toll rates on the major intra-city highways such as MEX, SILK, BESRAYA, LDP and SPRINT to be reduced.

Figure 1: Barisan Nasional (BN)’s GE2013 Manifesto promising the ‘gradual reduction of intra-city tolls

But two and a half years after the 13th general election, the BN government failed to deliver on its manifesto promise when it allowed toll hikes of between RM0.20 to RM2.30 on eighteen toll highways.[1] (See Figure 2 below) For example, the toll for the MEX highway to Putrajaya was increased from RM2.50 to RM3.50. The toll for the LDP highway was increased by RM0.50 from RM1.60 to RM2.10. The toll for the Karak highway at Gombak was increased by RM1 from Rm5.00 to RM6.00. In my own constituency, the toll for the BESRAYA highway was increased by RM0.70 from RM1.30 to RM2.00 and the toll for the SILK highway was increased by RM0.80 from RM1.00 to RM1.80.

What will likely happen in GE14 if the BN managed to win power? It is almost guaranteed that the BN will allow at least one round of toll hikes after GE14. Quite a number of toll highways have had their toll hikes postponed including all of the tolls owned by PLUS (NSE, NKVE, ELITE, LPT) and KESAS. Quite a number of tolls have also not received their allowable toll hikes as per their respective concession agreements (including the LDP). During this time, the government has had to pay compensation to these toll compensations for postponing the toll hikes.

Figure 2: Toll hikes in the Klang Valley implemented on the 12th of October, 2015

Given the financial pressures which the government is under, it is very unlikely that they would want to continue to pay the toll compensations which means that toll hikes are all but guaranteed. How much will the toll rates increase? Table 1 below shows the projected increase in the toll rates as stated in the respective concession agreements. For all of the tolls under PLUS, there was supposed to be a price hike of 5% in 2016 but it was not implemented. According to newspaper reports, PLUS is allowed to increase its toll rate by 5% every three years. If the toll hike that was supposed to take place in 2016 is lumped together with the projected toll hike in 2019, all of the tolls under PLUS would increase by 10% in price. For example, a one-way trip from the Damansara toll in Petaling Jaya to the Jawi toll in Penang would increase by RM4.05 from RM40.50 to RM44.55 and a one-way trip from the Sungai Besi toll in KL to the Skudai toll in Johor Bahru would increase by RM4.13 from Rm41.3 to RM45.43. The cost of one-way trip on the ELITE highway from KLIA to the Jalan Duta toll would increase by RM0.91 from RM9.1 to RM10.01. The cost of a one-way trip on the NKVE from Damansara to Setia Alam would increase by RM0.27 from RM2.70 to RM2.97.

The price of each of the three tolls along the KESAS highway would increase from RM2.00 to Rm2.50. The Cheras-Kajang toll will increase from RM1.30 to RM1.80 at the Cheras Batu 9 and the Cheras Batu 11 tolls. The LDP toll rate in Puchong will increase from RM2.10 to RM3.10. The AKLEH toll rate will increase from RM2.50 to RM3.50. The SPRINT toll rate at Plaza Damansara, Plaza Pantai and Bukit Kiara will increase from RM2 to RM2.50, from RM2.50 to RM3.50 and from RM3.00 to RM5.00 respectively. The GUTHRIE highway toll rate will increase from RM1.90 to RM2.60. The Gombak toll for the KARAK highway will increase from RM6.00 to RM8.00 and the Bentong toll rate will increase from RM3.50 to RM5.00. (See Table 1 below for a summary of the projected toll rate increases after GE14)

Table 1: Projected Increase in Toll Rates if BN wins GE14[2]

Highway Name Toll Plaza Current (Nov 2017) Post GE14 # Increase Post GE14 % Increase Post GE14
North South Highway (NSE) Damansara to JAWI (PJ to Penang) 40.5 42.53 to 44.55 2.03 to 4.05 5% to 10%
North South Highway (NSE) Sungai Besi to Skudai (KL to JB) 41.3 43.37 to 45.43 2.07 to 4.13 5% to 10%
NKVE Damansara to Setia Alam 2.7 2.84 to 2.97 0.14 to 0.27 5% to 10%
ELITE KLIA to Jalan Duta 9.1 9.56 to 10.01 0.46 to 0.91 5% to 10%
KESAS Awan Besar, Sunway & Kota Kemuning 2 2.5 0.5 25%
Cheras-Kajang Cheras Batu 9 & Cheras Batu 11 1.3 1.8 0.5 38%
BESRAYA Sungai Besi 2 2.2 0.2 10%
NPE PJS2 1 2.3 1.3 130%
LDP Puchong 2.10 3.10 1 48%
AKLEH 2.5 3.5 1 40%
SPRINT Plaza Damansara 2 2.5 0.5 25%
Plaza Pantai 2.5 3.5 1 40%
Bukit Kiara 3 5 2 67%
GUTHRIE 1.9 2.6 0.7 37%
New North Klang Straits Bypass (NNKSB) Kapar Toll 2.7 3.1 0.4 15%
Bukit Raja Toll (Kapar Bound) 1.6 2.1 0.5 31%
Bukit Raja Toll (Kport Klang Bound) 0.6 0.8 0.2 33%
KARAK Gombak 6 8 2 33%
Bentong 3.5 5 1.5 43%

Rather than voting for a government that will increase the cost of living for each and every Malaysian, voters must choose Pakatan Harapan who has promised to take over these toll concessionaires as per the terms and conditions in the concession agreements which will lead to the eventual abolishment of the tolls. The BN government has shown that it is willing to take over loss-making tolls such as the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) in Johor but continues to pay out billions in compensation to the concessionaires which own and operate the profitable tolls such as the LDP. This is another clear example of how losses by private companies are socialized i.e. taken over by the government but profits are privatized for the enjoyment of these toll concession companies. The only way that this can be stopped is if there is a change in the federal government in GE14.

[1] https://paultan.org/2015/10/12/12-highways-get-toll-rate-hike-highest-at-rm1-10/

[2] The information in Table 1 is based on the concession agreements that was accessed at the library of the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) / Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (LLM). The toll concession agreements for MEX, LKSA, LEKAS, DUKE, LATAR and SKVE were not available for public viewing.

Question to Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai – What happened to the Malaysian Transportation Safety Board (MTSB) that could have been tasked with investigating the accidents involving KTM cargo trains?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 24th of November 2017

Question to Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai – What happened to the Malaysian Transportation Safety Board (MTSB) that could have been tasked with investigating the accidents involving KTM cargo trains?

Yesterday was the third major train derailment for the KTM service in the Klang Valley in the past three months. This most recent derailment involved a 12-coach cargo train which derailed between the Bank Negara and Kuala Lumpur KTM Komuter stations. Repair works are expected to take three days before regular services can be resumed.[1] On the 23rd of September, a snapped electrical cable between the Rawang and Kuang KTM stations also caused track closures for 2 days.[2] On the 21st of August, the derailment of a cargo train at Jalan Kuching also caused delays for a few days.[3] And this does not include the numerous times where trains have been delayed because of so-called technical problems.[4]

A simple glance at the feedback to @ktm_berhad’s twitter account and also the KTM Komuter’s complaint board[5] will show the many frustrations of KTM Komuter users. It is ironic that billions of ringgit have been spent on the MRT and yet, the services of KTM Komuter, which has more than a hundred thousand users per day (when there are no service disruptions), continues to be sub-par and plagued by major disruptions which seem to be happening more frequently.

SPAD’s twitter account (@SPADChannel) tweeted that the CEO of SPAD, Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah, visited the site of the train derailment yesterday. SPAD also issued a press statement yesterday to instruct KTM to cease its cargo operations from Rawang to Salak Selatan until KTM’s investigation into this derailment is completed.[6] I commend SPAD for its quick response and I urge SPAD to follow through to ensure that KTM reimburses the affected passengers so that they do not have to pay extra by taking the MRT as a result of the suspension of KTM Komuter services at the affected stations.

But SPAD must do more. It must not leave the investigation of the most recent cargo train derailment solely to KTM. SPAD itself must lead the investigation and make public the findings in the interest of transparency.

The Transport Minister, Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai has been conspicuously silent throughout all three major disruptions involving KTM services. May I remind the Minister that KTM is still under the purview of his Ministry and that he should take responsibility for these disruptions. I also want to remind the Minister that we are still waiting for the establishment of the Malaysia Transportation Safety Board (MTSB), a statutory body which is supposed to carry out independent investigations of accidents for all modes of transport including rail accidents. This act to establish this statutory body was supposed to have been in the ‘finalisation’ stages way back in December 2016 but till today, we have not seen any sign that this act will be tabled in this parliamentary session.[7] If this statutory body had been established this year, it could have been tasked with investigating these recent derailment accidents. But because of the ineptitude of the Minister, we are left pointing fingers and none of us being any wiser as to the cause of these accidents and how to prevent them in the future.

[1] https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/11/306368/three-days-until-regular-train-services-resume-says-ktmb

[2] http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2017/09/24/ktm-train-services-be-fully-restored-monday

[3] https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/08/270569/cargo-train-derails-ktm-komuter-and-ets-services-disrupted

[4] http://www.astroawani.com/berita-malaysia/ktm-komuter-hadapi-masalah-teknikal-netizen-mengamuk-102834

[5] https://www.complaintboard.com/ktm-komuter-l4046.html

[6] http://www.spad.gov.my/ms/pusat-media/kenyataan-media/2017/spad-mengarahkan-ktmb-untuk-menggantung-operasi-tren-kargo

[7] https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/12/30/transportation-safety-board-being-finalised/#MLH2SGjtB6BEhdmU.99

Disclose the MRT Line 3 tender to the public

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Serdang, on the 15th of November 2017

Disclose the MRT Line 3 tender to the public

I was surprised to read the headline of the Edge Financial Daily yesterday (14th November 2017) with the title “Don’t politicise tender timeline – MRT Corp” quoting the words of the MRT Corp’s CEO Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar. I have found Shahril and his staff at MRT Corp to be very professional and responsive to public feedback in my dealings with them, in the context of the MRT Line 2 which runs through my constituency of Serdang. As such, he should have expected great public scrutiny when the construction and financing model for MRT Line 3 – expecting to cost between RM35 to RM40 billion – is changed from a Project Delivery Partner (PDP) model to a turnkey model.

MRT Corp and the Land Public Transport Authority (SPAD) have been singing praises for the PDP model as far back as 2011.[1] Former SPAD CEO, Mohd Nur Kamal, wrote that “In the case of the PDP, the risk of delays and cost over-runs is now borne by the PDP for a fee. The PDP provides a single point of accountability to deliver the entire project within agreed time and cost targets, or face financial penalties, something a pure engineering consultancy has no financial capacity or management capability to bear.”

Shahril, in yesterday’s media briefing, also explained that since MRT Corp acted as the PDP for the underground portion of the MRT Line 2, it can also manage the turnkey contractor for MRT Line 2 in a similar fashion. He said, “Since we have the necessary experiences to manage the underground portion, I think the question of not pursuing the PDP model should not have arisen, as we are capable of managing the turnkey contractor like we have done in the past”. But since the turnkey contractor is also responsible for 90% of the financing of the MRT Line 3 project, will the same incentives and punishments as the PDP model be used for MRT Line 1 and Line 2?

Shahril also stated that the alignment of MRT Line 3 has not been decided and will only be confirmed by the end of 2018. If the alignment is not confirmed, how can the bidders for the turnkey contractor accurately assess the total cost of building the MRT Line 3? For comparison, the MRT2 alignment went on public display in May 2015[2] and the first tender for the project’s advanced works was accepted only in November of that year. The packages for the underground portion and the first viaduct package was only awarded in March 2016, almost a year after the public display of the alignment.[3] Now, not only will tendering companies have to draw up their proposals very quickly, the full specifications of the project including the route alignment will only be known after the tender closes.

The tender documents for a project as big and complicated as the MRT will usually be sold to potential bidders and not be available for public scrutiny. But given the cost of this project, the changes in the construction and financing terms, and high level of public interest, I call upon the tender specifications of the MRT Line 3 to be publicly disclosed to answer many of the questions which have been raised by journalists, financial analysts and Members of Parliament.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

[1] http://www.mymrt.com.my/cms/upload_files/mediarelease/mediarelease_download_000005.pdf

[2] https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2015/05/14/details-of-mrt2-project-on-public-display-tomorrow/

[3] http://www.mymrt.com.my/en/awarded-contracts-ssp