Highway concessionaire PLUS Expressways spent RM1 billion in 2016 for the maintenance of 5,000 km of highways under its care, according to Bernama. The company conducted more than 10,000 inspections and asset monitoring across all of its highways, said PLUS chief operating officer Zakaria Ahmad Zabidi.

Around 1,000 personnel are tasked with the inspections and maintenance of the 5,000 km of highways under PLUS’ care, comprising engineers and technical executives who carry out upkeep of mechanical and electrical equipment, Zakaria said.

The maintenance involves the highways containing 7,000 slopes and embankments, 500 bridges, the 800-metre Menora tunnel, 114 interchanges and 24 rest and service areas, 24 hours daily. High gross weight vehicles (HGVs) contribute around 25% of total traffic on PLUS-operated highways, and are found to be the main contributor to the deterioration of road surfaces.

“We have also invested a huge amount of money to preserve pavements, which is our key highway asset,” said Zakaria. PLUS’ highways were considered matured assets as they have been in operation for almost 30 years, which was why “a lot of maintenance initiatives have to be carried out to keep it in good shape.”

The latest statement lines up with the annual expenditure of RM1 billion as stated by the company’s previous COO, which made up 74% of its annual budget in 2016.

PLUS practices a three-pronged strategy for maintenance which comprises routine, remedial and preventive maintenance, Zakaria said. Routine practice includes grass-cutting and cleaning of drains, while the second includes restorative maintenance such as road resurfacing and structural repairs for slopes and bridges in order to ensure the assets’ fitness for service.

Meanwhile, preventive maintenance is aimed at minimising defects and deterioration, which is planned to ensure that the highways are restored and maintained for service beyond its projected lifespan. “We ensure that highway maintenance is in line with international standards, and compliance to strict standards is enforced by local authorities, he said.

Additionally, PLUS has developed the Traffic Monitoring Centre (TMC) for the collection and redistribution of traffic information in real time for better traffic management, while coordinating assistance for road users in need.

The Real Time Monitoring System has also been developed to prepare real-time information via instrumentation at 90 stations or 79 strategic locations along the North-South Expressway. As a result, the PLUS technical team will know the status of the highway in order to carry out initial investigations and routine upkeep.

Robots have also been developed for the remote inspection of 5,000 sewers, half of which are too small for examiners to access and ensure that the sewers’ structures are still sturdy and in good condition. The highway concessionaire is also exploring the use of drones for traffic surveillance during festive seasons, and for the monitoring of hills and slopes.

Stagnant water is the greatest foe for engineers in the construction and operation of highways and roadways, and can lead to an increased risk of road accidents, Zakaria said.