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'Insufficient funding reason for backlog of maintenance on federal roads'

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There has been a backlog of maintenance work on some federal roads in the country due to insufficient allocations, Works Minister Baru Bian said.

He said the ministry has been unable to carry out maintenance works effectively as it was only allocated RM100 million for the maintenance of federal roads nationwide in the 2019 Budget.

He said since 2015, the federal government’s allocation for the maintenance of federal roads has declined relative to the actual cost of maintenance which was about RM2 billion a year.

“Since 2015, the ministry has been getting about RM600 million to RM800 million a year. This year, it was reduced to RM100 million,” he told reporters during a recent road trip to the east coast under the ministry’s FTRoadpedia series.

The allocations to the various ministries in the 2019 Budget were slashed as part of the government’s efforts to reduce the country’s RM1 trillion debt and bring the economy back on the right fiscal track within three years.

The Works Ministry has sought an additional allocation of RM610 million from the Finance Ministry to meet its road maintenance costs, said Baru, adding that his ministry has been given the assurance that it would be given the additional funding.

The ministry’s recent three-day FTRoadpedia Eastern Zone 2.0 saw a 100-member delegation – headed by the works minister and his deputy Mohd Annuar Mohd Tahir – comprising senior officers and media representatives travelling to Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu by road.

The programme’s objectives, among others, were to monitor the quality of maintenance of the federal roads in the three states.

Federal roads, labelled F or FT, are roads built and maintained by the Works Ministry through the Public Works Department (PWD).

According to Baru, about 35 percent of the 17,771.42 kilometres of federal roads nationwide have developed ‘crocodile cracking’ due to lack of maintenance.

(Crocodile cracking refers to small cracks on the road surface that are directly caused by weight loading from vehicles.)

Among the federal roads that frequently experience serious cracking are the Telupid-Sandakan road, and the road to Port Klang in Selangor.

Lorries and trailers

The road damage has been attributed to the high volume of heavy traffic, such as lorries and trailers carrying loads exceeding the limits set for them, plying the roads concerned.

In view of the increase in the approved load limit for commercial vehicles and the rising number of vehicles registered every year, the minister expressed his concern that the road conditions may worsen if the backlog of maintenance work is not resolved.

“The frequency of commercial transport services companies using federal roads to reduce their operating costs will also (aggravate the road conditions and) worsen the issue of maintenance backlog,” added Baru.

Citing the findings of a study of the southern zone covering Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Malacca carried out by PWD, Baru said its report showed that up to last year, 35 percent of maintenance works had been deferred, with the affected roads categorised as ‘bad’ and ‘severe’ and due for resurfacing.

“It can pose a danger to road users, as well as hike up maintenance costs in the future,” he added.

PWD ascertains the conditions of the federal roads through its own patrols and routine checks by its concession companies, as well as complaints from the public.

From 2016 up to July 2018, the Works Ministry received a total of 15,594 complaints from the public, with 50 percent of them related to road maintenance issues.

Routine and periodic

Baru said road maintenance has two scopes, routine and periodic.

Routine maintenance involves grass-cutting and patching potholes, and also handling small emergencies, such as removing trees that have fallen on roads, that are completed within 24 hours after a complaint is made.

Periodic maintenance involves the resurfacing of roads or other works and is subject to the government’s approval.

“Once we get the allocation, it will take two weeks to six months to implement the maintenance project depending on the type of work approved,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, PWD road branch senior director Zulakmal Sufian said cracks were the common problem affecting federal roads.

“It usually starts as a single crack. Then, multiple ‘single’ cracks will start to merge and form crocodile cracks which resemble the skin of the crocodile,” he explained.

If the cracks occur beneath the vehicles’ tyre tracks, it shows that the road’s structure has weakened and will eventually lead to potholes.

“Road unevenness is another category of road damage. This road condition is usually more pronounced in uphill areas where heavy vehicles are forced to move more slowly,” explained Zulakmal.

The road can also become uneven at intersections as a result of vehicles braking and then moving, he said, adding that puddles that form on uneven road surfaces when it rained can pose a danger to road users.

- Bernama

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