KUALA LUMPUR: The government's proposed RM6.2bil takeover of four highway concessionaires will not do away with toll charges but see motorists paying less for toll, says Lim Guan Eng.
The Finance Minister defended the takeover bid as being done in the name of public interest.
He added that motorists would pay congestion charges of less than 30% outside peak hours and toll-free during off peak hours.
"This is because the government is not an organisation looking to make a profit.
"We have taken out the element of profit and are doing it for the public good unlike private enterprises which must make a return," he said when answering a question raised over the highway takeover bid during Minister's Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday (July 9).
Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) asked why motorists had to continue to pay toll and congestion charges after the takeover although Pakatan Harapan had promised to abolish toll charges if it came to power after May 9 last year.
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (PH-Setiawangsa) wanted Lim to clarify the benefits of the proposed takeover following criticism that it would only benefit motorists using the tolled highways.
Lim said a study was conducted by a local financial institution before the takeover formula was presented and approved by the Cabinet in February this year.
He noted the formula will see the government saving at least RM5.3bil in compensation payments to the four concessionaires for not raising toll rates over a period of between nine to 23 years.
"It will also see consumers saving up to RM180mil in toll charges during the concession period which will help increase household income by at least RM2bil during this period," he said.
Lim assured lawmakers that the takeover will not incur cost to the government and that toll rates would not be increased.
This, he said, was because the takeover will be financed through bond issuance with congestion charges used to pay off the debt.
Later at the Parliament lobby, Lim said that congestion charges would be imposed during the concession period of between nine and 23 years.
Asked if the congestion charges would ultimately be abolished after the concession period, Lim said it was the government's hope to abolish toll altogether after the concession period had ended.
However, he said that nominal toll charges may still be imposed for operational and maintenance costs of the highways.
"If the government finances have improved, we should be able to abolish the toll by then," he said.
Asked on a time frame for the concessionaires to revert back to the government's takeover offer, Lim said that no specific period was given although the government intends to implement the new toll system by Jan 1 next year.
The four tolled highway concessions are the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (Sprint), Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas) and Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (Smart).
Gamuda Bhd has a significant stake in the concessions.
The breakdown of the offer prices are RM2.47bil for the LDP, RM1.98bil for Sprint, RM1.38bil for Kesas and RM369mil for Smart.