Isnin, 18 Februari 2013

Artikel Menarik Aman Nak Share : Shorten the drive to Kelantan

By : Azman Ujang
This article from The Sun Daily.

ONE of the joys of living
in Peninsular Malaysia for East Malaysians like me is the super highways between states that enable seamless journeys and reduced travel times. This tops the contrasts between the two regions of Malaysia, and perhaps it is not too outrageous to describe it as like "the earth and sky".
Young Malaysians would not understand how inter-state travel in earlier times meant passing through narrow long and winding roads without any R&R stops.
Looking back, we have the pioneering North-South Highway conceptualised by Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan (PLUS) to thank for as it opened up and transformed the entire peninsula, with many other tolled highway concession projects following suit over the years.
When I think of PLUS, I cannot help reminiscing about the move by the DAP to challenge in court the contract awarded to the concessionaire UEM Berhad. This caused delays in its construction.
The super highway would have been built at lower cost and the toll would have been lower had construction started earlier without the party's legal suit.
I was in court that day some 25 years ago to hear the verdict where to their great credit, the learned panel of judges ruled that DAP leader Lim Kit Siang had no locus standi to bring the suit to court.
Which brings me to the subject of this column – although by and large there are seamless land journeys across the peninsula, it's not so to Kelantan where motorists have to endure torturous long hours on the roads. Unlike in most states, there is no dedicated tolled highway linking Kelantan.
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Most affected are the hundreds of thousands of Kelantanese who work or earn a living in the Klang Valley, many of whom return to the state during festive holidays. And of course, the daily inter-state travellers.
I spoke to seasoned travellers who drive to Kota Baru, and this is what some have to say: Driving from Kuala Lumpur, they have to pass Bentong and Raub in Pahang before crossing the state border to Gua Musang, then to Kuala Krai and finally Kota Baru. This journey normally takes between seven and eight hours, and double the time during festive seasons.
From Karak Highway to Raub, travellers need to pass through Bentong town; they have to spend at least three hours on this stretch before reaching the main Raub-Lipis road. From Kuala Lipis to Gua Musang, motorists have to negotiate a high slope, Bukit Tujuh, which leads to a narrow stretch of road where overtaking is almost impossible.
At Gua Musang town, motorists normally fill up their tanks and take a rest for up to an hour before heading to Kuala Krai on to Machang/Kota Baru.
The queue at the traffic junction in Kuala Krai town can be as long as 5km and takes another hour. If luck is not on your side, after getting out of Kuala Krai, journeys are disrupted if the water level of Sungai Durian rises above the bridge.
My informers say due to such hazards, it is common for staff at the hospitals in Kuala Krai and Kuala Lipis to have their hands full dealing with victims of accidents. It's worse if there are breakdowns involving heavy vehicles that would cause further traffic snarls as the fire brigade, police and ambulances come to the aid of accident victims. A senior civil servant who regularly uses these routes told me the solution was straightforward.
Policymakers take note.
First, build a by-pass from Karak to Raub or alternatively, from Karak to the Felda Mempaga land scheme to Kuala Lipis. Next, straighten and upgrade the twisting road with another by-pass at Kuala Krai town.
Then widen the Gua Musang-Kuala Krai road. "Just imagine, this road was built when Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was the finance minister way back in 1978. It's still as it was then," said the civil servant.
Also, the Public Works Department is said to be lax when it comes to scheduled maintenance and putting up proper signs.
In view of this, Kota Baru has the most number of flights from Kuala Lumpur compared with any other town with Malaysia Airlines, Firelfy and AirAsia putting up a total of 16 flights daily. Asked why he thought matters relating to Kelantan's poor road connections are rarely highlighted by its MPs in Parliament or ministers from the state, the civil servant said: "I think they all fly and don't take the road journey. So they are comfortable."
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last month announced the construction of the Kuala Krai-Kota Baru highway as one of seven major projects the federal government would implement for Kelantan if the Barisan Nasional wrests control of the state in the next general election.
Obviously just this Kuala Krai-Kota Baru highway isn't enough to end the miseries of motorists driving to Kelantan.
With the BN making another determined onslaught to capture the economically depressed state from PAS, I would say that its chances would be boosted if the prime minister could also announce additional projects as suggested by the civil servant.
The BN came closest to succeeding in the 2004 general election when Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed was portrayed as mentri besar-to-be. It was only two seats shy of coming to power then.
According to news reports, Mustapa, the international trade and industry minister, is again being hyped as the mentri besar and there is no better time than now for the people of Kelantan to make the change as they certainly deserve a much better deal than what they have been getting for the past two decades. They should forget the divisive and destructive politics that has made the state suffer economically.
As the civil servant put it: "At least 500,000 Kelantanese are earning a living in the Klang Valley and thousands of others elsewhere. Many of them will go back by road to vote in the general election. If the BN announces that it will implement the road upgrading projects that I have suggested, I'm sure the BN will get a huge number of votes from them."


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