Cashless Touch ‘n’ Go – Outdated and Must Go?

touch n go

Do you still remember the time before Touch ‘n’ Go was widely used for public transportation, parking and highway tolls? Image source: Compare Hero.my

I still remember the days when I had to queue up at the bus companies counters to get my bus passes –sometimes more than one, depending on the year. KL, Klang & Port Klang Omnibus and SJ Kenderaan had their own dedicated counter for the bus passes – different colours for adults and school children (which is half of the price of the adult total fares). Toong Foong one was a bit different – you have get it from their office which was located near Puduraya where it is usually packed with bus conductors also queuing up to get their stacks of new bus tickets.

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Driving on the Wrong Side of Road

Read These First:-

Wrong Side of the Road

(Another car on the wrong side of the road – this was from 2017 where a 21-year-old man was killed when a BMW, travelling against the traffic, rammed into his Perodua MyVi at Jalan Tun Razak near the National Library. Photo source: NST)

There was a time when I drive to work; there is a road that leads from the office to the main road leading into the Federal Highway. This is a known choke point and pretty much crawling at peak hours. So once the right side of the lane jammed up, impatient drivers will then start driving on the wrong side of the road to bypass the traffic and make illegal entry to the main road, compounding the traffic jam at this point. I lost count of the times when I will turn into this slip road only to face off with drivers driving on the wrong side of the road.

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When the Car Monkeyed Around In the Year of the Monkey

Frankly speaking, I had Part 2 in mind (had half way drafted the content) but over time, the passion for one subject fades away and another subject grabbed my attention.

Read these first:-

(One good way to damage the sidewalls but modern tires is designed to absorb such sudden shocks)

Last month – on the month of the CNY – had proved to be a rather very expensive month for me as an owner of a car.

Firstly I accidentally scrapped my left back tire against the kerb and caused a small portion of the tire sidewall to be sliced off. I know for fact that whilst you can abuse the main tread and still drive safely, the same cannot be said for the sidewall. And it was painful because the tire was still new – barely a year since I last changed it. I took it to 2 different tire shops – the first one looked at it and said it was nothing to worry.

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Being a Mean, Angry Hulk in 2016!

the-avengers-angry-hulk-smash-loki

(One of the best scene from the Avengers – Hulk vs a God and guess who won. I watched this scene probably hundred times and I never got bored with it. Image source: http://reactiongifs.me)

It was “bang” leaving 2015 – we all watched the new Star Wars movie and we all loved it from the start to the end.

But ever since the start of a “new” year, hardly been a time when I was not in an “angry” mode. Don’t get me wrong – I am not angry with anyone in particular but now schools have started and parents rushing to send their kids to school and then rush to work, way too many idiots have sprout out and had made things worse.

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Know Your Car Basics: Do You Listen to Your Car’s Cries?

Car tires screwed

(The thing that you do not want to see sticking out from your car tires)

Before I start, I was not meaning “listen” in this sense

Couple weeks ago, we suppose to make a trip to Kuantan to visit an elderly aunty who was not feeling well. And to ensure we don’t inconvenient the relatives (who I know don’t have much space in their house), I even booked hotel rooms for the family.

It was long holidays too, so I decided to set the time to depart from the house during the non-peak hours so that we will reach Kuantan without getting caught in the massive traffic that was expected. But at the last minute, I could not go due to an “emergency” at work place and we had to get a replacement for me (since I was the designated driver for the trip). We looked around but everyone already had plans for the long holidays.

In the end, my sister volunteered (or rather was strongly persuaded to take over). At first she said wanted to use her car instead of mine for the journey which made sense but after a second thought, she decided to use my car instead. After all it was more spacious and more comfortable for that long journey to Kuantan.

The main reason why she decided to use my car was because she said she had to pump air into her back right tire on weekly basis and she suspected something not right with the tire. But she has yet to bring the car to the mechanic for a proper check-up.

So, not wanting to take any risk of the whole family stranded by the road side on their way to Kuantan or worse, losing control of the car near Genting, it was better to take my car instead – after all, it had 4 brand new tires and the car just completed its periodic service and I had high confidence on the reliability of the car.

With my car not available, I decided to use my sister’s car for work instead and almost immediately I noticed a loud sound from the back tires. I had to pull over and check. And when I pump air into the tires, the right back tire was indeed had much less air than the rest of the tires (for normal wear and tear, the air should be reducing almost the same pace on all tires.

If one reduces more than the rest, it’s time to bring the tire for check-up). I know there was a leak somewhere but I could not pin point the source. Much later, when my sister took the car for service, there was indeed a leak from an old puncture. Good thing we made the correct decision by not using her car for the long trip.

Then last night as I was driving past the toll booth, there was a faint “thud, thud, thud” sound. I rolled down the window and as I drive past the road barriers (where the sound would bounce back and it will clearer to hear), there was no mistake of the “thud, thud, thud” sound. The last time I heard that sound was when there a screw firmly lodged on the tire.

Now I am hearing the same sound again. I just shook my head in despair and slowly moved to the left lane. No point being a “hero” on the highway with one flat tire. I kept driving slower until I cleared the highway and entered a commercial area. I parked my car and took a quick look at the tires. I did not notice any screws or nails but then again, checking by the road side with poor light conditions did not help either. The sound was still there.

So to minimize the option of having a flat tire before I reach home (where I can jack up the car and have a better look), I drove to the nearest petrol station and pumped air on all tires. One thing I noticed was that there was no drastic reduction of air. That was strange because if there was a screw or nail, there would have a considerable lost of air to one of the tires compared to the other tires. Something was not right. In fact the tire that I thought had a puncture had almost nil lost of air.

Not taking any chances, I continued driving slow, taking the back lanes where there was a less traffic and where it is easier to stop by the road side. It took longer time than usual but I somehow made it home in one piece.

First thing to do after I had parked the car in the porch was to take the torchlight and make a more thorough inspection of the tires. Then I found the culprit – a small stone wedged in the middle of the tire and that made sense. I had the same problem when I changed the tires to Michelin couple years ago as well. It has a wider grooves than other make – it makes an excellent tires on wet roads but it easily picks up small stones.

Some how I don’t have the same problem with Continental or Goodyear tires. This is the last time I am going to use the Michelin tires. And to be sure, I drove around the residential area after removing the stone and there was no longer the “thud, thud, thud” sound.

And over the years, there have been many types of sounds emitting from the car and I have made mental note of what sound means what problem.

Once there was an intermittent sound of something knocking against the interior of the car. I stopped the car and double checked and noticed that the passenger side seat belt was twisted and the metal part of the belt was hitting against the side of the car whenever I am changing lanes.

Low tire pressure usually give a growling sound and although it is not a bad thing but it still dangerous to drive around (especially when cornering) and obviously it is fuel inefficient. And there is the usual “trrrrrr” sound which comes from the USB stick – the cover of the USB stick vibrates and makes that “trrrrrr” sound.

And in my previous car, there is a sound of plastic being flipped around and that comes from the plastic covering inside the doors and the sound comes from the sound vibration of the speakers. Another is the whining sound when closing the doors – this indicates lack of lubrication on the door. And if one drives the older Proton models, the squeaky noise is part and parcel of driving a national car.

The newer models don’t have that problem to some extent – they are well built and the NVH insulation is quite good.

The thing is, I make a point to listen to the car every morning as I am leaving the house and does the same before I leave the office. The sound of the engine, the sound of the tires and any other sound that is out of place. If something sounds out of place, always stop and check.

The last thing you want to do is to have trouble when you are flying at 110 km/h. And early morning is the best time to listen to the sounds – it quiet (which makes it easier to listen things) and there are no other cars and if there are any strange sounds, home is just nearby.

The sound that I fear the most is of course the “thud, thud, thud” sound. It has caused me more headaches than any “other sounds” over the years.

There are times when the car actually talks to you and if you listen to it closely, you can understand it’s language. And here’s a quick guide for more sounds that could indicate problems to your car (another is here).

That takes the surprise element out from the equation and makes driving a bit more safer and economical. Well, do you do the same? Have you listened to your car lately?

Off to a Funeral Down South

Another funeral, this time down south in JB…

Funeral

(No matter what, Malaysia remains where my heart and soul lies at the end of the day. And nothing kicks starts the notion than flying on the national carrier whilst having hot delicious nasi lemak for company)

Somehow it was great to fly back on MAS – for a couple of things.

One, it was good to hear safety announcements in Bahasa Malaysia again. Two, they served nasi lemak for lunch which was a sure sign that we are heading back home. And one of the first things that I did once I am back home was to catch up on my sleep. I could not help it – I even doze off whilst I was having conversations. Having a weekend and then thereafter the CNY holidays was just perfect to catch up on a break.

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Ending The Year 2014

najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

Hong Kong: The Home of Efficient Public Transport

Read these first:-

Kuala_Lumpur_LRT_Monorail_Map

(Comparatively Malaysia is not far from a very efficient public transportation system and with further extension to the LRT lines and the upcoming MRT lines, one hopes that it will close the gap in the current system. Perhaps we can learn one or two things from Hong Kong.  Image source: Google)

Well, I don’t know it made one of the best first impressions – perhaps it is because I have not taken a public bus in Malaysia in a very long, long time (and I still don’t) and seeing an empty, new comfortable bus made me in love with the idea of taking the bus again or perhaps because of this:-

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, making it the highest rate in the world

(Source)

I just came back from a short trip to Hong Kong and one of the thing that catches my eyes when we had touched down and exited the airport is their public transportation.

The Hong Kong International Airport itself was impressive although it was not in anyway better than our own KLIA (it was way too crowded compared to KLIA too). The airport is well connected by train (which includes their superb Airport Express), buses and taxis, very similar to KLIA. Instead of taking the obvious option of using the Airport Express, we opted to take the Airport bus instead to the city. One of the colleague had a hotel reservation made and we could get off nearer to the hotel if we take the bus instead of the train. And it was cheap too – HKD40 for one way trip to the city centre (the Airport Express using the Octopus card costs HKD100 per trip).

We were tired and despite taking the bus, it was very comfortable and we managed to catch a short nap along the way. From the bus stop, we had to walk to the hotel and after one of my colleague had checked in to a hotel, the rest of us decided to take the taxi to our apartment (another 30 minutes ride and cost us HKD41 for 3 of us and a couple of large luggage bags). The driver hardly spoke English but he understood where we wanted to go but what struck me immediately was there was 3 seats at the front which was not a norm but I guess no one dares to sit on the middle seat. Not when the taxi driver was wearing shorts.

Walking around the apartment residential area is a breeze and it was a good chance for me to lose some baggage around my waist. And we did walked a lot here – good thing I brought my sports shoe along. There is no any MTR (mass transit railway) station near the place that we were staying but they do have others namely bus, tram and of course, the iconic red color taxi.

bus2

bus1

(Our option for public transport – the double deck buses. We took one from the Airport and so is the inter-city buses)

To move around, I would strongly suggest to get the Octopus card (we got ours at the airport and used it for the bus from the airport). Same thing with our Touch n Go card here and one can recharge the card at the numerous 7-eleven shops for free. The bus station is just about 100 metres from the apartment. The tram station is a bit further and we decided not to take the tram in the morning. It is slower and does not have air conditioner. The bus on the other hand is far more comfortable and it is very, very efficient. And since the bus stop near the apartment is just the 3rd bus stop on the bus lane, we always can find an empty seat during the rush hours.

And here’s one reason I respect the Hong Kong commuters – they queue up to take the bus. Yes, there is a queue line on the pavement to ensure everyone know where to queue up but I have also seen the same discipline of queuing up when they are waiting for the elevator. Something that is grossly missing back here in Malaysia. Here, even before the people come out from the lift, those who were waiting for the elevator would simply rush in. They won’t even queue up but instead crowd around the entrance. Same un-civic attitude can be seen when one waits for the bus. The crowd would rush in and would be pushing and pulling to get onto the bus. Not a big surprise considering how they jump queue on the road. Nope, not here. Everyone waits and everyone gives way.

And Malaysia should introduce double deck buses – it’s way too cool than the single deck Intrakota buses we have in Malaysia (it is even worse with the old crappy, dirty Metro bus). It takes more passengers too. I have experienced taking the double decker bus when I was in Singapore but it was not a good experience, mainly because it is usually full by the time it reaches our bus stop. The top deck is only allowed for sitting passengers and the driver that I saw in Hong Kong made sure of it (he monitors via a CCTV).

And they always say that public transport is a money losing business and that it is why it is run by the Government. But back in Hong Kong, it seems to be a different story:-

Is this problem intractable? Not exactly. Take Hong Kong for example: The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation, which manages the subway and bus systems on Hong Kong Island and, since 2006, in the northern part of Kowloon, is considered the gold standard for transit management worldwide.

In 2012, the MTR produced revenue of 36 billion Hong Kong Dollars (about U.S $5 billion)—turning a profit of $2 billion in the process. Most impressively, the farebox recovery ratio (the percentage of operational costs covered by fares) for the system was 185 percent, the world’s highest. Worldwide, these numbers are practically unheard of—the next highest urban ratio, Singapore, is a mere 125 percent.

(Source)

Which is true if you consider on how the transportation system is integrated in Hong Kong – there have a number of major terminals where the MTR, bus and taxi have their main stations in one place. This is something we need to consider very seriously here in Malaysia.

As I had said, we rarely took the MTR – there is none near to our apartment and the one we took was when we were going to the Times Square for shopping. So, when it was time to fly back, I decided to take the taxi to the Hong Kong station (where the Airport Express train departs). It was a short ride and the driver dropped me off at the entrance. The Hong Kong station is located quite close to the Central MTR station and allows passengers (for certain airlines) to check-in (similar to facilities in KL Sentral). I already checked in online and since I only had a small luggage bag to bring along, I proceeded to the escalators to the platform. The Airport Express is a dedicated train from the city to the airport very much the same as our KLIA Express and it is indeed fast, clean and comfortable. It costs HKD100 for one way trip from the Hong Kong station to the airport.

Out from the MTR station, it was just a short walk to the check in and baggage drop counters. It was a nice thing although I experienced the same queues and stone faced officials at the immigration counters. Sometimes certain things never changes.

Toll Hike, Ha, Ha, Ha!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/sap2hfA-pHg]

.

Go ahead, clear your mind and a have good laugh.

Hopefully it will soften the pain that you feel deep down whenever you read Ministers’ statements in this country. I don’t know if they read their own statements before they read it aloud in public. It just reinforces the notion that we need to change the Government from the top, hopefully at least it will wake some people up and get them to use their mind before talking.

Well, take a deep breath and read this:-

The government has decided not to raise toll rates in 2014 to help Malaysians face rising prices. Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will have to pay over RM400 million in compensation to concessionaires as per agreement with them.

The government is also considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements after a thorough review of existing concessions.

Muhyiddin said the government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living, with hikes in prices of goods and subsidy cuts.

(Source)

Reading Muhyiddin’s statement that the government is “considering” renegotiation of toll concession agreements and the government made the decision not to raise tolls “in the light of increasing criticism” from various quarters almost caused me to choke on my breakfast yesterday. Muhyiddin was talking like the issue of toll hike crop up only yesterday and the RM400 million paid came from his own pockets, sigh. Very caring indeed. The government can always find way to screw the taxpayers on way or another and in this case, there is no difference.

The call for the government to renegotiate the toll concession agreements is not a new one. Pakatan had called for the same thing way back in 2009 and a good number of years had lapsed since then and only now they want to “renegotiation of toll concession agreements”? Sorry, consider to renegotiate. Hoooo, that’s scary. But then again, what the fuck they have been doing for the past few years when they could have done all their studies (with their highly paid consultants) and renegotiate the toll agreements when the toll was cheaper back then? Had their head in the ground and told themselves that everything is alright? They could have save millions of taxpayers money and the road users would have been a lot more happy with a prospect of cheaper toll even when they are stuck in mega traffic jam on the so-called highways.

And assuming this is true, I mean that they are finally going to do something about it instead farting loud in the wind (as usual), another 5 years would have lapsed and the toll concessionaires would still have made their millions either from toll hike or huge compensations. So trust me when you hear that the government is considering renegotiation of toll concession agreements, it will remain in the “considering” phase and no real action would take place (unless until we change the Government).

The other part of the morning joke by DPM was this – that government made the decision not to raise tolls in the light of increasing criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living. Wow, how grateful we are but hold on, you mean to say that the government actually had a choice on this matter? I thought another Minister of yours said that they have no choice on this matter despite the same “criticism from various quarters over the rising cost of living”?

The toll rate hike next year is unavoidable as it is an express condition in the concession agreement between the government and highway concession companies, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Wahid Omar

(Source)

Oh wait, now I get it – the government made the decision not to raise tolls (due to criticism) but they still whack the people with huge compensations. Something is not right. You are not taking money from people who actually use the highways but then take money from all people who may or not use the highway and pay the compensation. And come up to the stage and say that you have been very caring.

Anyway, have you watched the video and laughed? If that does not make you laugh, I am sure that the statement from DPM above will. There is no toll hike but the taxpayers get screwed anyway with RM400 million bill and who knows what will happen after the Kajang by-election fiasco had ended. After all, didn’t they promised to reduce the toll before the last general election but right after the general election, they threw that idea out of the window and said that they have no choice but had to raise the toll?

Have a good weekend ahead and remember this in the next general elections.

Speed Demons on Highway 2

[youtube=http://youtu.be/SuY_VHzKdjc]

(There is always a limit to everything we do and a limit to speeding is there for obvious reasons. Slow down and you will live longer. Some idiots would never learn no matter what happens when one speeds over the speed limit on the highway)

Driving on Malaysian highways often promises a good story for this blog and it is the case for this week and one that deal with speed demons on highways. About 9 years ago, I had a close encounter with a speed demon and a recent trip north saw  another close encounter with another speed demon.

But first read this first:-

At least 37 people were killed when a bus in a mountainous area of Malaysia plunged into a ravine on Wednesday, the country’s Bernama news agency said, citing rescue officials. There also were 16 people injured, and they were sent to hospitals, the report said.

There were 53 people on board. Among the dead were Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese nationals. The bus driver also died. The bus was descending from Genting Highlands when it fell into a 200-feet-deep ravine, Bernama reported. The incident occurred near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

(Source)

Back in August last year, the country saw one of the worst accident relating to express buses. Before that, back in 2011, there was another horrible accident involving express/tour buses where 28 people perished. And beginning this year when it comes to express buses, it was not good news either:-

Three people died and at least 14 injured when an express bus they were travelling in crashed at KM107.2 of the North-South Expressway, from Pagoh to Yong Peng today. The bus driver was believed to have lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a railing and landing at the side of the highway at about 2pm.

The Star Online reported that the bus was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor with 17 passengers, including a number of foreigners. Two men and a 10-year-old boy were killed while seven passengers suffered serious injuries.

(Source)

Last weekend, we had to do a quick trip up North and it was sort of a last minute decision.

My mother in law was not well and my wife despite postponing the call to go and visit her somehow knew that time was up to visit her mother. So instead of going during CNY when one can expect sheer madness on highways, we decided to go one week earlier and come back the very next day. The highway was almost empty and we actually had empty tables at the famed R&R. There was the usual big bike convoys dominating the fast lane and having little care for the 110 km/h speed limit. The same went to Singapore registered cars – they were driving on the fast lane like they were on a private race track. The same also went to those with luxury car where the RM300 ticket for speeding would hardly made any dent on their pockets.

It was not the first time I encounter them but I seriously think that some of the idiots who uses the highway should be barred from using vehicles for life. I mean if they are bloody ignorant of the law, then at least they should have some common sense. They would either drive above the speed limit like their back is on fire (or hog the fast lane) and when confronted with another faster vehicle, they would dash into the slower lane without sense of space or the courtesy to put on the indicators to warn the slower traffic on the left. Some would cut in too close for comfort, completely ignoring the fact that there is another vehicle on the slow lane.

Then towards Ipoh, we saw something that left us speechless. There was a car overtook us on the fast lane and I know it was driven above the speed limit (I was already driving at 110 km/h then). Following just behind that speeding car is a police car but that too is driven above the speed limit. Well, I am fine with that but what irked me was that the police did nothing to pull over the speeding car and give the driver a speeding ticket. Perhaps the policeman had a bad stomach ache and rushing to the nearest toilet. Perhaps. But then again, it sends the wrong message and if the enforcement agencies keeps one eyes closed, you can be assured that there would not be the end of fiery deaths on the highway.

The stay with the in-laws was pretty short (it usually do, ha ha) but enough for me to take a good break for the trip back. My wife had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that was good enough, at least for now. The next day as usual we decided to leave early to KL. My sister in law and her 2 year old daughter followed us back and since there was plenty of space in my car, we were more than happy to accommodate them. I hardly drove more than 90 km/h and kept to the 110 km/h speed limit at certain part of the highway. And with a good selection of songs in my flash drive, it was a relaxing ride back.

aeroline_speeding2

(It took mere minutes for these 2 buses – there is another in front of this bus – to disappear from my sight despite we were traveling at about 110 km/h)

Some kilometers before Behrang (about 11.20 am on Sunday), I noticed something on my rear mirrors – not one but two speeding high deck express buses (High deck just like the high deck bus where 28 people died back in 2011). Knowing on how they usually fly through on the fast lane (and sometimes on the slow lane, adding the risks to other road users), I maintained on the middle lane and I was already cruising at 100 – 110 km/h. The first bus (Aeroline) bus flies through on the slow lane and quickly cut into the middle lane, a few paces in front of me. The second bus came right behind my car in the middle lane and started to flash his headlights (if we has stopped, I would bashed his head for coming up so close, endangering me and my family and flashing his headlights like a big dirty bully). He was trying to bully me to move over from the middle lane but since it was not safe to move over, I continued to drive on the middle lane, hoping that the idiot would move over on the fast lane. After all, he was faster than me – both buses was flying at about 140 km/h!

I got my son to snap some photos to be passed over to JPJ (hopefully they will blacklist these drivers) whilst I concentrated on driving. And I was quite angry too. Not only the idiots were endangering me and other road users with their deadly driving, they were also endangering the passengers. But the, when I went to Aeroline’s website, I read the biggest joke from the company titled “Safety”:-

AEROLINE coaches are built on high quality imported Scania (Sweden)chassis. AEROLINE operates its very own dedicated maintenance facility that is manned by experienced mechanics to maintain the coaches to our own standards, by using only quality parts.

Furthermore, each AEROLINE captain is hand picked and undergo regular training and monitoring. With the aid of GPS tracking system, our command centre is able to monitor the operation of each bus in real time, thus ensuring every journey a safe one.

(Source)

Ya right, perhaps who ever wrote that “safety” statement should hand pick himself to take up a trip in their Aeroline buses where driving at more than 140 km/h and weaving in & out dangerously on a high deck buses meant nothing for these drivers. One wrong move weaving in and out of traffic or one tire blow out or encounter with one inexperienced driver and you will have another 20 – 30 passenger on the ditch and dead. No matter what the politicians, the bus company owners & management and the public may say after a tragedy, it will not bring back the dead. But unfortunately Aeroline is not the only bus company that I noticed speeding above the speed limit (but that does not mean they are not guilty of sheer recklessness). Another bus (from another bus company) just behind these Aeroline buses was also speeding at 140 km/h and was also weaving in and out of traffic. Within minutes, all these buses had disappeared from our sight as far as we can see up front.

And one main reason for this is because there is a serious lapse of enforcement. It is a fact that we fare badly when it comes to enforcement and it is not due to the laziness of the enforcement agencies. Sometimes the need for a stricter enforcement is curtailed, not by shortcomings of the enforcement agencies but rather due to the short sighted & (very, very) dumb politicians who flip-flops enforcement related policies on weak reasons and shout for all the wrong reasons.

This is where we have to relook into the implementation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on a larger scale. This is where also, rather unfortunately, the Pakatan fellows failed us miserably – yes, initially there seemed to be some “questions” in awarding the AES implementation to the private companies but that was not the main concern here. It was clear that the Pakatan politicians were barking on the wrong tree and had been asking all the wrong questions. The main concern is to ensure a strict adherence to the traffic rules and AES would have provided that unbiased, all weather, 24 x 7 automated enforcement that the other enforcement agencies may not been to able to provide effectively.

And now, nation wide AES implementation seemed to be on hold and that is allowing more idiots to break the traffic laws on a greater scale. They know that they cannot be caught (forget the yearly Ops Sikap – one, it is done during major holidays when the highways are packed thus reducing the opportunity to fly like you were on a race track and two, these drivers know that the police is out there in a greater force to nab these offenders) . That is why on other “non festival” days bus drivers like the above Aerobus drivers do not hesitate for a second to drive dangerously on the highways and endangering others on the road. Some unlucky ones end up killing their passengers and the whole vicious cycles starts again.

And there is another aspect of strict enforcement, ahem, since Najib been going around saying that the Government does not enough money for subsidies and what not. The more drivers nabbed for violation of traffic rules (and trust me, you will get a truckload of them without a sweat), the more fines can be collected and these money can be re-used for critical Government expenses (flying the fat lady overseas in private jets however does not count).

Just imagine that in the first 1 week of the AES in operation, it captured 63,558 offenses (an average of one offense every two-and-a-half minutes). Even if you use a modest RM50 fine per offense (speeding ticket will cost RM300), the Government can easily collect RM300,000 per week. Imagine how much they can collect on monthly basis. That is a lot of money that can be used again to beef up enforcement (more AES cameras) and make the roads safer again. Insurance claims has not been cheap as well – “net claims paid out for bodily injury and property damage due to road accidents in the first nine months of 2013 have risen to RM4.1 billion, compared to RM3.68 billion in the same period in 2012”.

We may have one of the best highways in the region (we still do) but we also have the 3rd world mentality when it comes to using them in the right way and in a safe way. You can be rest assured that you going to have more buses speeding above the speed limit and more deaths from unsafe speeding vehicles if attitude and enforcement does not change.

Please keep this mind as you balik kampung this Chinese New Year. Enjoy the holidays and have a plenty of rest.

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