Saturday, June 19, 2021

Businesses fight for life as SUKE road closures keep customers away

They say almost no one comes to the area anymore as the alternative route is too difficult and inconvenient.

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Businesses at Damai 23, a development in Alam Damai, Cheras, may soon be forced to close their shutters for good as the number of customers and clients is on the decline due to road closures caused by the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) project.

Last month, Jalan Alam Damai and Jalan 1/44A near Taman Len Seng were closed in the wake of a fatal accident near Alam Damai which claimed the lives of three Chinese construction workers.

Today, they are still closed and businesses are feeling the pinch. Despite an alternative route set up for those wishing to enter the area, customers are staying away.

Several businesses have already closed down, unable to stay afloat.

Kenny Lin, a spokesman for businesses there, said they had been severely affected by the road closures as the alternative route took drivers far from the Jalan Alam Damai area.

“People from Taman Len Seng, which is a mere 500m away, have to go through Persiaran Alam Damai, about 4km away, before they can reach us.

“Because of this, they prefer to shop elsewhere,” he said, adding that even navigation apps like Waze have a hard time locating Damai 23.

Parking is now another problem, and desperate business owners have resorted to setting up their own signs to keep customers from losing their way around the area.

With their employer no longer able to pay the rent, workers at a barbershop in Damai 23 pack up.

During MalaysiaNow’s recent visit to Damai 23, workers at a barbershop could be seen packing up their goods. The barber, Waqas, said he could no longer afford to pay the rent of RM1,700 per month.

“Before this, our customers had to wait outside for their turn. Now, we can get only two to three people per day,” he told MalaysiaNow.

Similar complaints were heard from other business owners in the area.

Dr Prashan-Gunaseharan, who has run a clinic there for six years now, said he had never faced such problems before construction of the highway began.

He used to see 40 patients a day but now, he is fortunate to get five to 10.

But moving his clinic elsewhere will be a lot of trouble as he will have to renew his licence, which takes anywhere from one to two months.

He told MalaysiaNow that the convenience store beside his clinic had been forced to close down because no one was coming anymore.

Philip Siow, who runs a pharmacy there, said his business had seen a 70% drop in sales due to the road closures.

“The closures mean there are no new, walk-in customers. Even Grab drivers find it hard to get here. So we have to depend on regular customers,” he added.

Shops stand shuttered in Damai 23, Cheras, access to which has been reduced due to road closures.

Rental for an average shoplot in Damai 23 ranges from RM5,000 to RM7,000 a month.

Many business owners are also upset with the lag in construction work following the closure of roads.

“We were not informed of any date for reopening the roads, nor the timeline for the project to finish,” another business owner said.

Tan Ooi Hock opened a second branch of his auto parts shop in Damai 23, hoping to increase his sales. Unfortunately for him, the day the shop opened was the day the roads were closed.

“I chose to open a second branch because many of my customers come from this area. I thought it would be easier for them than to come to Sungai Besi. But since it opened, there have hardly been any customers at all,” he said.

Lin said the business owners had asked SUKE for compensation to pay for their rent and salaries but were told to engage with lawyers.

“We are considering increasing the amount as our losses keep increasing,” he added.

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