Senior Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof has had to defend the decision to transition to RFID technology (again?) at the Dewan Rakyat, repeating the claim that it is faster and more effective for toll payments than the infrared tech used in SmartTAG devices used in vehicles previously.
The main line of questioning came from Sabak Bernam MP Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh about the use of RFID along all closed tolls along the North-South Expressway (PLUS) and East Coast Highway 2 (LPT2), which doubted its functionality and benefits. But in better news, Fadillah did say that RFID usage has increased by 18% (since its introduction in 2017, hmm....).
In response, the Senior Works Minister said that several short-term measures have been taken to mitigate the congestion issues faced at toll plazas such as stationing toll officers to handle problematic lanes before a queue gets out of hand and maintaining Touch n’Go and SmartTAG lanes.
He also reiterated that the implementation of RFID as the primary means of toll payments is ongoing in line with the goal of having a near-seamless multi-lane free flow (MLFF) highway network by 2025, adding:
“If we look at the existing system, we need to stop to scan the Touch n'Go card before the toll gate barrier opens. Through the use of SmartTAG and RFID technology, 1,000 vehicles can pass through a toll point within an hour, compared to only 450 vehicles (with the use of TnG cards),” he said.
As Malaysian motorists, we are not doubting that RFID technology presents a way to make toll payments more quickly and easily compared to Touch n’Go or SmartTAG, but given the state of its current implementation, external/situational factors are causing the experience to be identical or significantly worse than the older system.
However, nothing on this matter has been properly addressed until after public outcry forces a response from the highway concessionaire, technology/service provider, or the government - never before.
For example issues such as having just one or two RFID lanes versus four or more Touch n’Go and SmartTAG lanes contribute to long queues, DIY sticker installations mean inconsistent detection performance, or not having a Touch n’Go tag reader on RFID lanes as a backup means of payment.
These are all common sense problems that have seemingly been left unattended to, and no amount of talk about multi-lane free flow will convince the Rakyat of RFID’s benefits if they are frustrated by it on a day-to-day basis.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.