Tricky issues over toll takeovers

Opinion  |  P Gunasegaram
Published:  |  Modified:

QUESTION TIME | While one commends the government for at least trying to reduce the toll burden on the public, the sad and unmistakable truth is that some form of tolls is going to be around for quite some time, given the one that the government is negotiating for in Kuala Lumpur.

It looks like the ultimate “solution” is for the government to simply accept that tolls are going to be around, even if they are going to be called by a misnomer such as “congestion charge”, with some token reductions here and there when the government takes over.

It will be very far from their promise that tolls will be abolished - that is way in the future. For instance, most of PLUS’ concessions, which include the North-South Expressway, only expire in 2038. That’s 19 years to go but the government should be planning now not to renew the concessions anymore when they expire.

Many things are not clear at this stage of negotiation and how it is effectively going to be done, but what is clear is some form of payment is going to be there for a long time to come.

The government recently announced negotiations with Gamuda to take over some toll roads in Kuala Lumpur. These are the LDP, SPRINT, KESAS and the SMART. It is proposed that there will a congestion charge for peak hours which is the same as the toll charge.

For off-peak hours - 11pm to 5am, there will be no charge while for other times, there will be a 30 percent discount. However, peak hours were not specified.

In effect, the only major benefit to consumers is a 30 percent reduction during off-peak hours, which have yet to be specified and the abolition of toll from 11pm to 5am during which traffic is likely to be very low anyway. If you are travelling at peak times when most people travel, you pay the full toll charge...

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