Monday, February 19, 2007

A Toll Too Many (Part 2)

Quah Seng Sun, a columnist with The Star, puts the BORR, -its planning, execution and subsequent "tolling" in perspective:

I used to live in Seberang Jaya on mainland Penang. Then, more than two years ago, I moved to Bukit Mertajam for a change of scenery.

At that time, the Butterworth Outer Ring Road was being built. One end starts at Prai/Taman Inderawasih and the other end starts at Bagan Ajam. So it is very logical that if toll is to be collected, the concessionaire will collect it at both ends.

But amazingly, in an agreement between the authorities and the concessionnaire, the latter was given the green light to collect toll along the Butterworth-Kulim Highway. This is an existing highway, built a rather long time ago. How it came to be considered as part of the Butterworth Outer Ring Road is a total mystery.

Anyway, the intention to collect toll along this stretch of road is an open secret. In fact, it is no secret at all. Some comments were made in public while the toll plaza was being built. The matter was raised at the Penang State Assembly but nobody paid any notice to it.

Then, when everything was ready and the Federal Government announced that toll would be collected effective from 20 Feb 2007, suddenly everyone staying around Butterworth and Seberang Jaya were up in arms. Protest. Appeal. Protest.

But what’s the use? If you want to make noise, if you want to protest, if you want to appeal, the residents should have done this a long time ago. Three years. That’s how long ago it took to build the Butterworth Outer Ring Road. Three years went by before anyone decided to become more vocal.

But I can tell you that it’s going to be a losing battle. See how all other appeals have played out in the Klang Valley and elsewhere? Despite appeals and protests, in the end, the toll stays.

Our politicians always manage to take the high ground. The Seberang Jaya state assemblyman said he had raised this at the State Assembly a long time ago; the Penang Chief Minister claimed everything was out of the Penang government’s hands as this is a Federal matter.

However, today, bowing to pressure, it has been reported in the newspapers that the toll on this stretch of road has been deferred “until further notice”. Most probably, it will be deferred until alternative routes are constructed between Butterworth and Seberang Jaya.

Someone said that the deferment is a nice Chinese New Year present but I tell you, it is no Chinese New Year present at all. Don’t be fooled by it.