Adam Anand Row
As we look to the future and the new opportunities it brings, it is important to reminisce on Gamuda’s uniquely storied past delivering some of the most significant engineering projects in Malaysian history. Looking back past the MRT Kajang Line, Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) and the Electrified Double Track project (EDTP), Gamuda was responsible for delivering the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP) which remains till this day, a vital thoroughfare running through the heart of the Klang Valley.
The RISE editorial team caught up with Sazally Bin Saidi, Lingkaran Trans Kota Holding Berhad (LITRAK) Chief Executive Officer, an experienced stalwart who rose from the ranks and grew together with the LDP over more than 20 years of service. A true highwayman at heart, Sazally has received numerous public commendations from relevant government agencies including Polis Di Raja Malaysia (PDRM) for his effort in highway management and public services.
When he first started with LITRAK as the Manager of the Highway Maintenance Department in 1997, Sazally was tasked with setting-up operation departments and overseeing the construction of the LDP. He shared his varied experiences and challenges that he led his team to overcome over the years.
“We started with a pretty small team back then. Long hours were the norm as we established the company with new policies and procedures. With each new challenge, our experience in managing obstacles became more streamlined,” Sazally shared.
“Not everything always went smoothly. I remember taking the Board including the Chairman of LITRAK to inspect the progress of the LDP. The 4×4 vehicle carrying him broke down near the on-going construction of our Motorola cable-stayed bridge, causing a massive traffic jam on the LDP! While the construction phase of the LDP had its fair share of challenges, bigger hurdles came once operations began. Our teams were working day and night leading up to the grand opening, with meals sometimes only being a simple roti canai shared with a colleague by the side of the road. The experience really bonded us together as a team,” he added.
“On the day of the launch itself, while we were conducting the grand opening of the LDP at the top of our iconic Motorola cable-stayed bridge (the first cable-stayed land bridge in Malaysia and over the congested Federal Highway Route 2), a long heavily loaded trailer overturned at the bottom of the bridge. Imagine having to clear the trailer and traffic while carrying out the opening ceremony with VIPs literally right above us. Even after the launch, there was considerable push-back from the media and certain resident groups which taught us the importance of open and active communication.
“If the public is adequately informed and educated on a project, there is usually less resistance to successful implementation. This is why we introduced multiple Information Centres to facilitate dialogue sessions with stakeholders to address their concerns,” Sazally explained.
“All these experiences helped built our competence and resourcefulness as we improve our skillsets. When the launch trailer broke down, we had to negotiate with nearby factories to borrow their forklift to get the trailer righted as well as liaising with our transporter for a workable solution,” he stated.
“Another big challenge was managing the public’s response when we announced the activation of tolling on the LDP. Weekly protests happened in front of our offices by resident associations, but this was mitigated with patience and open communication. It’s a stamina game. If you can keep your cool, stay focused and engage with honesty, you can find a way forward. Another major traumatic period is when toll rates were due for revision and done as per the concession agreement. We went on a justification mode with education at length. Over the years, we have had good and bad days, and we take them both in our stride with our motivation peaking when we overcome each new challenge.
“These are just some of the many footnotes to the constantly evolving LDP story which continues to be improved by LITRAK. We have funnelled almost RM1 billion of our profits into making improvements to the LDP which benefit both road users and stakeholders along the highway. This is something people often fail to see, despite it being obvious,” he clarified.
“I’m proud to say that our excellence in the field of highway operation and maintenance (O&M) has not gone unnoticed as both LDP and SPRINT have consistently been ranked first in the systematic quarterly and yearly audit conducted by Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia (LLM) since 2011. We were the first to successfully introduce new innovations in managing traffic flow like the contra-flow system, recognised by the highway authority and thereafter followed by other highway operators. It is a testament to LITRAK’s philosophy of constant improvement that we are always pushing new solutions,” Sazally shared in closing.