“Too expensive to cancel all toll rates”

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 26, 2019.
-A +A

KLANG: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government is taking the initiative to fulfil its election promise to abolish toll collection in stages with the planned introduction of the “congestion charge”, to encourage people to use highways during non-peak hours.

Commenting on the criticism towards the proposal, Dr Mahathir said: “We are offering a cheaper rate [during non-peak hours] as not many people are using (the highway at that time). That would mean people will choose that time to travel to benefit from the reduction of the rates,” he told reporters yesterday.

“To cancel all the rates becomes too expensive. We need to buy the tolled road. When you buy, you need to raise money and service the loans that we raise. So we try to reduce the money [costs] we have to pay for acquiring highways. That will go stage by stage and step by step,” he added.

Putrajaya announced last Saturday that it has begun talks with Gamuda Bhd to negotiate the acquisition of four highway concessions that the company has a majority stake in, with the aim of abolishing toll collection at these highways.

The four highways are Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong, Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat, Shah Alam Expressway and the Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel or the Smart Tunnel.

“Upon the successful takeover of the highways, the government intends to abolish the existing toll mechanism. In its place, a ‘congestion charge’ will be introduced where commuters will only pay a ‘congestion charge’ equivalent to the existing toll for six hours of ‘peak’ period a day,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

This means that during the “off-peak” period between 11pm and 5am, commuters will travel on the highway for free. At other “normal” travelling hours, commuters will enjoy discounted rates of up to 30% compared with existing toll rates.