KUALA LUMPUR: PLUS Expressways Bhd spent a staggering RM1 billion in 2016 to maintain 5,000 kilometres of highways in the country as part of its unwavering commitment to ensure safety for its road users.
It is a monumental task, taking into account that the country’s largest highway concessionaire also maintains land along the highways containing 7,000 slopes and embankments, 500 bridges, the 800-metre Meru-Menora tunnel (two tunnels side by side for each direction), 114 interchanges, and 24 rest and service areas on a daily basis 24 hours of the day.
In ensuring road safety as a priority for users, Zakaria Ahmad Zabidi, Chief Operating Officer of PLUS Malaysia, cited how for the past one year alone, the company conducted more than 10,000 inspections and asset monitoring for all its highways,
Some 1,000 personnel are involved in this mammoth task to maintain the 5,000 km of highways which is equivalent to the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing,
The personnel comprise engineers, as well as technical executives who carry out management maintenance, including mechanical and electrical equipment along the highways, as well as street lighting, he said in an interview recently.
He said PLUS’ highways were considered matured assets since they have been operating for nearly 30 years now, which was why “a lot of maintenance initiatives have to be carried out to keep it in good shape.”
“We have also invested a huge amount of money to preserve pavements, which is our key highway asset,” he said.
Besides passenger cars and light vehicles, heavy vehicles alone contribute to about 25 per cent of the total traffic and is “the main contributor to the deterioration of pavements.”
Huge amounts of investment and budget were allocated specifically to preserve road assets due to overladen lorries running along the North-South Expressway (NSE).
To preserve its highways, he said PLUS adopts a three-pronged maintenance strategy which includes routine, curative and preventive maintenance.
Elaborating, he said routine maintenance refers to the repetitive or periodic work such as grass cutting and drain desilting.
The second strategy is curative maintenance, which includes repairing of pavement structure, slopes and bridges to maintain asset service suitability, as well as structure integrity.
Preventive maintenance, meanwhile, is aimed at minimising defects and deterioration and is a planned maintenance to ensure its highways were preserved, planned and maintained a lot longer than a lifetime.
“We ensure excellent highway maintenance in line with international safety standards and compliance with stringent requirements imposed by local authorities,” he said.
To provide a safe, smooth and comfortable journey for users, PLUS invested heavily in developing a state-of-the-art traffic monitoring system called the Traffic Monitoring Centre (TMC).
The Centre’s main function is to collect and disseminate real-time traffic information for efficient traffic management as well as co-ordinate assistance for highway users who need it.
The TMC is the heart of PLUS’ traffic management system network where information is received and disseminated to road users on a real-time basis, receiving about 200,000 calls yearly.
PLUS has also developed a Total Expressway Maintenance Management System or TEMAN – a database which includes information on inventory, asset condition and maintenance records and acts as a decision support tool to facilitate management control of highway maintenance activities.
“It’s key to the maintenance of our assets,” he said.
PLUS also developed the Real Time Monitoring System to provide real-time information through on-site instrumentation in 90 stations or 79 strategic locations along the NSE.
As a result, the PLUS technical team would know the condition of the roads so that early investigation and routine maintenance could be carried out.
He also said an intelligent culvert robotic inspection has been developed to remotely inspect 5,000 culverts, half of which were small and inaccessible to inspectors to ensure the structures were intact and in good condition.
PLUS was also exploring the use of drones for aerial surveillance for traffic conditions during festive days and inspect high slopes and high embankments.
He said water was the main enemy for engineers during construction and operations of roads and highways as stagnant water on roads pose severe risks causing accidents to road users. – Bernama