The following article is submitted to the editorial of MalaysiaGazette by Na’im Brundage, Youth Chief of Parti Bangsa Malaysia.
The highly anticipated rolling out of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) lanes along the North-South Highway was initially lauded by a large number of the Malaysian public who for years have suffered through the congestion commonly occurring at toll booths of the major highway in the country.
This enthusiasm and optimism by the Malaysian public can easily be explained as the RFID technology is not new and untested but has been proven to reduce congestion in many developed countries around the world. Our close neighbor Singapore for instance, has utilized the same technology for 20 years with much success.
The success that is seen in many countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia that have implemented the RFID system to reduce road congestion for many years however was not seen here. What we saw instead was road users facing more problems such as being double charged and facing a greater amount of congestion due to the system’s failure in being detected by toll gantries.
The failure of the rolling out of the RFID system and the lack of response from the parties responsible for its successful implementation has sparked a barrage of negative criticisms from the public, non-governmental organizations, and relevant associations that are largely dumbfounded by how such a catastrophic failure could have taken place in the first place.
This has even prompted a response from Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob calling for the highway concessionaires to allow road users the freedom to choose the payment method of their choice either the RFID, Touch ‘n Go, or the SmartTag system.
Albeit the Prime Minister’s statement is a step towards the right direction, it is worth noting that all of the payment system listed is currently monopolized by a single company and each of them has been plagued with its own set of problems for many years.
For instance, there are longstanding criticisms on the unnecessary fees and reload charges imposed on users when reloading their Touch ‘n Go card. The free reload option is still only available over the counters of Touch ‘n Go Hub, Highway Operation Office, selected highway toll lanes, and some stations of Rapid KL and KTM Komuter. These selected places are not easily accessible to most Malaysians, and as such many Malaysians have been burdened by the additional charges for years.
Another widespread criticism is on the Touch ‘n Go eWallet system, albeit already being introduced for quite some time it has continued to cause greater road congestions due to the PayDirect features being only available at selected toll booths. Users are thus forced to reload their cards manually albeit having sufficient funds in their Touch ‘n Go eWallet for the fear of coming across toll booths that are not equipped with the PayDirect features.
Noting the long history of failures by the Touch ‘n Go electronic payment system, the government must begin to seek other alternatives and quell the long-standing monopoly of the company that for years have no reason to improve its system due to its strategic position of being the sole payment method available for Malaysians on the road.
Monopolies and other non-competitive practices need to be abolished and made unlawful if the country is to have any hope at competing with our neighboring countries that are currently at the forefront of science and technological breakthrough.
Ketua Pemuda Parti Bangsa Malaysia