Following the cabinet’s intervention on the PLUS RFID rollout issue, touched on by prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday, the Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) has instructed the highway concessionaire to maintain both SmartTAG and Touch n Go (TnG) lanes.

In a statement, reported by the New Straits Times, LLM said that a total of 43 SmartTAG lanes will be reopened in stages at 34 toll plazas to ensure smooth traffic flow. It also ordered PLUS to place more personnel on the ground with manual scanning devices to assist RFID-equipped drivers facing issues at the RFID lanes.

“PLUS has been told to ensure the performance of the RFID system is improved to avoid congestion at toll plazas and to add on more RFID fitment centres along the PLUS highway. PLUS should also disseminate information on RFID systems through media channels to increase consumer understanding and awareness,” LLM’s statement read.

The statement should erase any doubts that RFID is the future of toll payments in Malaysia, current hiccups notwithstanding. The PM’s statements also point to that.

“Users must be given the freedom whether to use RFID, Touch n Go or SmartTAG,” he told reporters after the launch of the Keluarga Malaysia Agricommodity tour programme in Putrajaya yesterday, adding that the cabinet is of the view that road users must be given a choice, just like how it was when TnG co-existed with cash payments. Toll payments are fully cashless today.

Ismail Sabri suggests a more organic approach, which is to retain TnG and SmartTAG lanes and let users slowly adapt. “If it is a pilot project, it will take time after several months then we will leave it to the motorists to decide. Eventually, if the RFID facilitates their journey, they will migrate to the RFID. Don’t make it all RFID. If there are 10 lanes, maybe several lanes for RFID and the rest should be for TnG and SmartTAG. We don’t want to pressure motorists,” he said.

RFID for toll payment is nothing new, as it has been in place for a few years now in the Klang Valley, although PLUS is doing it on a much larger scale, equipping North-South Highway toll plazas from Juru in Penang to Skudai in Johor with RFID lanes. Some of these lanes were reportedly converted from SmartTAG lanes.