Traffic congestion: unfair to blame Wee?

I read with great amusement Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong’s response to my earlier statement about traffic congestion.

Wee in an interview with China Press on 30 May was quoted as saying that too many vehicles, about 33 million of them, on the road had caused serious traffic congestion. In the same interview he said public transport fares should go up due to the increase of oil prices.

I responded to such a strange comment by saying that he was wrong to take such an approach to handle traffic congestion as well as to promote use of public transport.

My contention was simple – to reduce the usage of private vehicles, the government needs to support public transport, especially buses, with subsidies so that model shift between private cars and public transport could occur.

Hiking fares for public transport now will force people to continue using private cars, and if they cannot afford, they switch to motorcycles, thus causing more road accidents and deaths.

In a very defensive mode, Wee said it was unfair to pin the blame on his ministry for our traffic congestion. He explained that while construction work throughout the Klang Valley was bound to cause inconvenience to commuters, development and road projects were under the works ministry.

Since city planning fell under the city councils while enforcement of road use should also include the police, he insisted that the responsibility should not be borne by the transport ministry alone.

I have no idea why Wee was so defensive. Both DAP Secretary-General and former Transport Minister Anthony Loke and I had never put all the blame on him or the transport ministry.

At the press conference on 27 May in Petaling Jaya, Anthony called on Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to form an inter-ministerial cabinet-level committee to take a multi-ministry approach to deal with the increasingly serious traffic congestion.

But Wee could only say there was nothing much he could do to help reduce traffic congestion, and therefore no one should blame him or his ministry.

Sometimes, I wonder what is actually his duty and role as transport minister.

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