Sunday, April 20, 2008

Opening of the East-West Highway

Commemorative Postage Stamps to Mark the Opening of the East-West Highway

Date of Issue: 1983-07-01
Denominations: 15 cents, 20 cents, and $1.00
Stamp Size: 31.84 mm x 48.34 mm
Paper: White unwatermarked security postage stamp paper
Printing Process: Offset Lithography
Printer: Security Printers (M) Sdn. Bhd. Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Sheet Composition: 50 stamps

Stamps in the Series:

First Day Cover:

With the opening of the East-West Highway to traffic on 1st July 1982, another milestone in the history of road communication in Peninsular Malaysia was achieved. The construction of the Highway was one of the largest projects undertaken by the Public Works Department and its completion adds to the large mileage of roads in the country providing necessary access to new areas and the infrastructure for development works. The construction of the main Highway was carried out by Public Works Department workers; while the bridges and some of the ancillary works were carried out through contractors.

With the attainment of independence in 1957, the ferry services along a number of roads in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia were replaced with bridges and this reduced travel time. However, road communication between the East Coast and West Coast was through Kuantan. The distance between Kota Bharu and Penang was 1037 km. Due to poor road communication, the vast hinterland in Kelantan and Terengganu with economic potential, was not developed. Thus a road to link the East and West Coasts in the North was found necessary.

In October 1969, the Public Works Department was instructed to commence work on the Highway with immediate effect. In early 1970, work started, simultaneously from Jeli and Gerik even before any detailed design or investigations were carried out. Existing earth moving machines from the various states were initially deployed until new machines for the project were purchased. It was only in early 1973 that the full complement of machines and staff were available for the project to proceed.

Two Base Camps were constructed, one at the Gerik end and the other at the Jeli end. The whole construction staff and their families were housed at these camps. A pilot track was constructed to gain access to the forward areas. This was followed by jungle clearing work by the main earthworks teams. As work progressed and travel time between the work site and Base camp increased, forward camps were set up to house the workers.

There are 5 major bridges along the Highway. Two of the bridges including the longest, the Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge, span arms of the lake formed by the Temenggor Dam Project. The bridges were designed by ENEX (of New Zealand) under the Colombo Plan Aid. Construction of 3 of the bridges were undertaken by a foreign contractor while a joint venture between 2 local firms undertook the construction of the remaining 2 bridges. In addition to the above, there are about 280 culverts constructed mainly by departmental workers.

Constructing the Highway was never plain sailing for the Public Works Department. There were many constraints, which slowed down progress. Some 27.5 million cu meter of earth was required to be cut to construct the Highway, of this over 3.8 million cu meter was rock, which required drilling and blasting operations for its removal. Hill cuts of over 60m and valleys over 100m deep, which required filling was found at many locations. The intensity of the monsoon rains especially in the forward areas reduced time available for construction to 10 months in a year. The East-West Highway is located close to the Malaysian-Thailand border and is situated in a Security Area. As a result several measures had to be taken and procedures adopted to ensure the safety of the workers and the machines. These too contributed to some delay. The 116 km long Highway, which links the East Coast at Jeli, Kelantan with the West Coast at Gerik, Perak cost $396 million. Other details of the project are as follows:

Major Bridges Span
1. Sungei Rui Bridge 256m
2. Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge 880m
3. Sungei Perak Causeway Bridge 640m
4. Upper Sungei Pergau Bridge 159m
5. Lower Sungei Pergau Bridge 158m

Road Design Criteria
Design speed 72 km/hr
Maximum Gradient 7%
Pavement Width 7.2m
Shoulder Width 2.3m

Traveling along the Highway is an exhilarating experience. As one enters the Highway, the Central Mountain Range through which the Highway traverses comes into view in the distant. Traveling along the gentle curves one climbs higher and sees on either side the primary jungle rich with timber. As one proceeds on, the jungle gives way to the huge man-made Temenggor Lake at Banding. Halfway along the Highway the elevation of the road is over 1,100m above sea level and the weather cool and pleasant.

With the completion of the East-West Highway the previous distance between Kota Bharu and Butterworth (through Kuantan) of 1037 km is reduced to 363 km with considerable savings in travel time. The completion of the Highway will reduce transport costs and with this the State of Kelantan can expect its tempo of development to be heightened, new towns and industrial areas will be developed. The Highway will provide the access for the extraction of timber from the jungles along the road and help boost tourism among Malaysians as well as foreigners.

The successful completion of the East-West Highway is the result of the sacrifice of workers who had to carry out their jobs under difficult and trying conditions. The public Works Department wishes to record its deep appreciation to them and to the Security Forces who have all made some personal sacrifices for the development and prosperity of the country.

15c – this stamp shows the Lower Sungei Pergau Bridge which is located 11 km from Kampung Jeli, Kelantan. On the background is Gunung Reng.

20c – this stamp shows the Sungei Perak Reservoir Bridge which is located 32 km from Gerik town. It is the longest bridge in the East-West Highway.

$1.00 – this stamp depicts the location map of the East-West Highway.

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