Friday, May 09, 2014

MHA and KKR must also come clear on KIDEX and re-study the corridor for public transportation

I have been following statement, comments and news reports and articles from various parties on the proposal to construct Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (KIDEX).

Statement and comments from the developer, KIDEX Sdn. Bhd., particularly its CEO, Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus, are important for the people to know more about the RM2.24 billion 14.9km elevated highway or skyway (which was said to be at least six to eight storey from ground level).

Statement from various authorities, including replies from the Ministry of Works (KKR), Malaysia Highway Authority (MHA), Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and Selangor State Government (SSG) are equally important for us to understand the issue.

There are three categories of issues arising from this issue. The first category is on how the concession agreement was awarded to KIDEX Sdn. Bhd. in November 2013. This category of issues will touch on the tender process – if the concession was granted via open tender, negotiated tender or direct negotiation? How long was the concession period? How will KIDEX Sdn. Bhd finance the project and what are the roles played by the Federal Government? Who are the persons or mother companies behind KIDEX Sdn Bhd?

Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus insisted that its RM2.42 billion contract for the project was awarded based on merit and through an open tender process[1].

There are nothing much MBPJ and SSG can do in this aspect as the entire exercise was under the purview and jurisdiction of the Federal Government, namely the KKR and MHA. Ironically, this is the most important part of the entire issue as it will determine how much and how long a period road users have to pay when they use this elevated highway.

The second category of issues surround on the core question – how it will benefits the people of Petaling Jaya, especially those whose houses are located just next to the skyway? Is this the only option available or are there other options available? What are the information that are available for public viewing at the moment? What are the approvals already given to KIDEX and what are the terms and conditions they have to follow?

According to an interview with The Sun[2], Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus said that “once KIDEX is up, there will be a 30% reduction of traffic in PJ and it will only take 15 minutes to get to Kinrara from Damansara or vice versa.”

This statement remained unsubstantiated until now as no figure has been tabled to MBPJ and SSG so far. According to Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus, the only information that they did not provide to MBPJ were those that were confidential for the government only[3].

This is what Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus was reportedly saying in The Sun[4]:

"One such information is the report on the TIA. When the report is completed in June or July, we need to submit the assessment report first to the Malaysia Highway Authority (MHA) for approval.

"Once that is done, the information will be released to the relevant authorities through MHA but if given the permission by MHA, we will release it to the relevant authorities," he said.

The third category of issues is something very much related to SSG – the project will not take off if private properties or lands are not acquired for the purpose of constructing the skyway. According to Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus[5], only about 10 percent of the total 3,784 lots would be acquired for the project.

Mr Reuben Selvarajah, chief engineer of HSS Engineering Sdn.Bhd., the main engineering consultant for KIDEX, told the Malay Mail Online that based on the current assessment plans, about 300 lots would probably have to be acquired[6].

According to the same report, Selangor Land Office served a notice of “possible” acquisition of 3,784 governments, commercial, industrial and residential units for the highway project on July 31 last year. The notice of possible acquisition is based on Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act 1960, which allows the state government to purchase any land for any “public purpose” or projects beneficial to the economy, if it is satisfied with the initiative of the said project[7].

Based on this, I can submit that the SSG actually hold the final keys whether to approve or not the project. Conventionally, any state government in Malaysia will unlikely deny application for land acquisition for major infrastructure project undertaken by the Federal Government based on the following reasons: The project was an expensive one and only the Federal Government has the financial means to fund it. The project, normally an infrastructure project, is deemed to be beneficiary to the people and the state, directly or indirectly. More economic activities, investments, developments etc will be brought in.

Although this could be true in the 80s and 90s, the same could not be said now especially in the case of KIDEX when series of intelligent questions are asked (in the three categories that I mentioned above) and none of them are properly dealt with by the developer of the skyway with solid and substantiated facts, evidence, surveys, engineering drawings and reports.

Nothing much have the residents heard from the Federal Government except for a few parliamentary replies from the Minister of Works, Datuk Fadillah Yusuf when he answered questions from MPs from Petaling Jaya Selatan, Hee Loy Sian and Puchong, Gobind Singh Deo.

He mentioned that KIDEX must fulfil a “condition precedent” 12 months before the concession agreement is enforced and that a “public survey” was also a necessary pre-condition.

As for the SSG, my colleagues in the State Legislative Assembly, namely R. Rajiv (DAP – Bukit Gasing), Yeo Bee Yin (DAP – Damansara Utama), Ng Sze Han (DAP – Kinrara) and I pressed for more information from the state government during the winding up session in the State Legislative Assembly session in April 2014[8].

The Mentri Besar (MB) and the State Executive Council (EXCO) Member in charge of infrastructure, YB Dr Ahmad Yunus bin Hairi replied in the House that although SSG has given the “principle agreement” to the KIDEX Sdn Bhd to proceed with the relevant plannings, KIDEX have to fulfill various conditions before they can proceed.

Some of these conditions state that the privatization must put the people’s priority first, construction cost and profit must be announced to the public and appropriation clause must be included to allow the government to step in and acquire the highway when KIDEX has achieved its targeted profit etc. I believe there are many other conditions set by SSG but are not revealed one by one due to time constraint.

MB also mentioned that the approval given to KIDEX was merely for them to proceed to conduct their survey, which without so, no companies will be willing to undertake such exercise. We were also informed that such exercise will involve significant amount of capitals and some degree of “commercial confidentiality”, based on MB’s personal experience in Guthrie when the company planned the construction of Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) years ago.

Last year, I had tabled a motion in the House requiring SSG to always inform the people and the House the latest information on all the major infrastructure projects undertaken by the Federal Government in Selangor. The motion was passed and adopted in the House.

Based on the adoption of the resolution and MB’s reply in the House, I personally would like to give him a benefit of doubt in his reply. More importantly, MB has agreed to go to the ground and meet the people personally to deal with any queries and doubts raised by the people.

Let’s turn to the local authority – another level of governance which is directly under the jurisdiction of SSG. My colleague, Mr Lee Suet Sen, an MBPJ councilor who is also a member of the One-Stop Centre (OSC) issued a press statement on 7th May 2014, which I reproduced as below:

“I am referring to the claim by KIDEX Sdn Bhd. Chief Executive Officer Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus in The Sun Daily yesterday that all relevant information on the proposed highway has been provided to the technical team of the MBPJ engineering department. Director of Engineering for MBPJ, Ir Ismail bin Shafie and Assistant Director of Engineering, Puan Hanizah binti Katab have confirmed that MBPJ have yet to receive any Detailed Alignment and Traffic Impact Study from KIDEX Sdn Bhd till today.

“I would like to take this opportunity to let Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus understand that by presenting the concept in Power Point format is not good enough for MBPJ to look into the proposal.

“Detailed alignment means MBPJ need to know the exact location of the highway, the exact width of it, the exact height of it, the exact set back of it from buildings, the exact locations of ramp in/ out etc. Traffic Impact Study is whether the Level of Service (LOS) on PJ local roads will be improved from LOS of D to C or B, the improvement of waiting time for vehicles at junction especially Ramp in/ out, the impact on 1 way traffic loop at Jalan Utara/ Timur/ Barat etc.

“I want to stress that MBPJ as local council is unable to process any application for zoning exercise of amendments in local plans (RTPJ1/ RTPJ2/ RKK13) when relevant information like detailed alignment and TIA are not available. Local plan is not any ordinary plan as it involves the definition of land usage at the particular place in Petaling Jaya. MBPJ have to be convinced that the proposal of KIDEX Sdn Bhd is to the benefit of development in Petaling Jaya.”

What Mr Lee Suet Sen said in this statement is very clear, that although KIDEX has got the initial approvals from various government departments to build the highway, KIDEX is expected to conduct a detailed engineering design and submit their application with these documents to the local authority and other technical authority for further approvals.

MBPJ will not be giving KIDEX any approval without these submissions. In fact, the reasons why SSG gave them a “principle agreement” in the first place is to allow them to proceed with detailed engineering design works, which are important for them to apply for approvals from the local authority and other technical departments. Unfortunately, what KIDEX had presented to the local council are just some PowerPoint Slides, which are grossly insufficient for the council to work on.

My collegue in the State Executive Council (EXCO), Dato’ Teng Chang khim, who is in charge of the portfolio of local government agreed with this statement and I believe that the Selangor Land Offices and SSG will not be able to process any applications further on if these are what they had done so far.

Another aspect that many of us have been missing is the role played by the Federal Government in this issue. In pressing for more information, MHA and KKR are completely missing from the radar screen although they are actually the custodians of the project. KIDEX is a just a concession company answerable to MHA and KKR. Even it CEO has mentioned that they have submitted all their documents to MHA and KKR and they can only release these documents for public viewing with their approvals.

What I can conclude from here is that we are having two different set of working culture. One is the bureaucratic and OSA-oriented working culture on the part of the Federal Government and another one is the open and ready-to-explain working culture on the part of MBPJ and SSG.

What we should go from here? This, in my opinion, is the crux of the issue.

I personally do not believe the idea that building more highways will solve the traffic congestion of another highway. This simplistic approach has been proven wrong times and again.

KIDEX said that it will alleviate traffic congestions along Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) – Is it not true that when the Federal Government first built LDP and SRINT Highway, it was meant to alleviate traffic congestion in Petaling Jaya, and now we need to build KIDEX to relieve traffic congestions along LDP and SPRINT?

When traffic congestions are building up along KIDEX years or decades later, are we going to build another highway?

What we need is a more comprehensive public transportation network and an aggressive campaign to reduce private vehicles on the road. Together with my colleague, we believed that the current proposed alignment is a good corridor for public transport line instead of a highway.

Current alignment if made into a public transport line - Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rapid Transit (LRT) or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), is able to provide greater connectivity to the current public transport network, with possible interchanges with MRT Line 1, LRT Kelana Jaya Line, LRT Ampang Line and KTM Commuter (see attachment).

We argue that taking up the airspace for the construction of the KIDEX highway will deny the people of Petaling Jaya and Puchong a future public transport link at this particular corridor. This is a spatial opportunity cost lost.

We strongly believe that the Federal Government must prove to the people of Petaling Jaya and Puchong, who are the biggest stakeholders of the project, that the highway project will indeed benefit them more than a public transport project.

The Federal Government must do some comparative studies between a highway and public transport line at this particular corridor. KIDEX should also study other alternative alignments. If a highway with the proposed alignment is found to be best option for Klang Valley traffic, then we hope that KIDEX can provide more convincing traffic impact assessment with facts and figures to justify that. At the moment, we have yet to receive traffic impact assessment from KIDEX despite making several requests.

We acknowledge the need for more highways for traffic dispersal as Petaling Jaya and the Klang Valley grows and develops. However, this should not be done on an ad-hoc manner, as with KIDEX planning, but through holistic planning for the Klang Valley road infrastructure, for example Klang Valley traffic master plan.

Only with a holistic traffic master plan that we know which location is best for what transport mode at Klang Valley and only with that the city can development in a more sustainable manner, realizing the full potential of the land value.

Lau Weng San

[1]Kidex contract won on ‘merit’ through open tender, CEO says http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/kidex-contract-won-on-merit-through-open-tender-ceo-says
[2] ‘Kidex will reduce congestion in PJ by 30%’ http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1002903
[3][4] MBPJ’s claims on Kidex is untrue (http://www.thesundaily.my/news/1038300)
Post a Comment