COMMENT | Expressway operator Plus and a related company Touch ’n Go are jointly operating an archaic, monopolistic, needless payment system for tolls which could cost the driving public as much as RM270 million each year from card expiries alone in future.
And it keeps the payment system from progressing to something much more superior and which has the capacity to reduce traffic jams and eliminate toll booths throughout the country as has been done in some countries.
It is unthinkable they continue to do this, simultaneously stopping other toll operators in the country from progressing too. Part of the reason is an incestuous link between Plus, one of its major controlling shareholders, and Touch ’n Go.
National sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional, through UEM Group Bhd, owns 51 percent of Plus while the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) holds the remaining 49 percent. Touch ’n Go is wholly owned by banking entity CIMB Group which is in turn 24.7 percent owned by Khazanah, its largest single shareholder. That’s a horribly conflicted state of affairs.
A year ago, Touch ’n Go had 25 million active cards, 15 million Touch ’n Go eWallet users and 1.5 million radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in its ecosystem, making it the largest such provider in Malaysia by far.
That’s no doubt due to the fact that you currently cannot travel the tolled highways in Malaysia without a Touch ’n Go card - cash has been eliminated and you can’t use credit cards. Because of a monopoly on highways, Touch ’n Go has made great strides - at the expense of the driving public.
My calculations (elaborated later) indicate that Touch ’n Go can make as much as RM190 million a year from expired cards alone. The new cards have an expiry period of seven years, 30 percent less (older cards have expiry period of 10 years), so earnings from expiries will go up some 43 percent or to over RM270 million per year in future, according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations.
Let me tell the story.
The other day I was driving from Setia Alam to the North-South Expressway operated by Plus for my usual...