It happens every festive season, the increase in traffic volume on highways resulting in the inevitable, familiar congestion, with a journey that would usually take four to five hours to accomplish ending up needing more than 12 hours of travel time.

In a bid to improve the situation, the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) says it is in discussions with PLUS on plans to widen major roads and highways so that traffic flow can be eased during festive seasons, the New Straits Times reports. According to MHA director-general Datuk Aziz Abdullah, the north-south routes should be widened to be able to accommodate more vehicles.

“The roads remain the same and there is no provision for the road concessionaire to widen them. We are trying to negotiate with them slowly, on plans to widen the roads, which involve the north-south routes as traffic flows are heavy, especially during peak season,” he said.

In a separate report by the publication, experts say that the idea needs more thought, stating that there are better – and less costlier – alternatives that can be explored, one of which is for authorities to upgrade the level of public transportation.

“We cannot say that widening roads will solve the congestion problem. That is not right. Perhaps it is okay to have roads widened to ease traffic flow in the future, but what about the off period (non-festive season)?,” said traffic engineering specialist Dr Law Teik Hua.

“It is not necessary to widen roads to ease traffic. It will be costly and time-consuming to do this. It is wasteful. Why don’t we use our resources to invest in upgrading public transportation? We have to think about how to improve public facilities to accommodate the demand,” he told the publication.

Meanwhile, Universiti Putra Malaysia professor Dr Wong Shaw Voon said a study on road widening needed to be carried out to determine if it was necessary, and areas needed to be identified carefully. He said if the road widening project was carried out in bottleneck areas, the chances of other locations experiencing bottlenecks would be higher

“This will worsen traffic. I think the authorities should carry out a study first before implementing such a project. This needs to be studied as it involves changes in traffic dynamics. Traffic congestion cannot be solved if the road-widening project is carried out in the wrong place. This will lead to more problems,” he said.

In a related-issue, Law lauded the government’s plan to ban heavy vehicles during peak seasons to reduce congestion, but added that it would be challenging for business owners and travellers.

“Commercial vehicles that carry fresh produce and other goods need to meet demand (for the goods). The festive season is the time when supplies are needed the most. They need to send supplies to meet the demand. It is crucial for petrol companies too. They need to meet the demand, especially during festive seasons, because this is when vehicles need fuel when travelling,” he explained.