THE Federal Government’s proposed RM6.2bil takeover of four highways will not eliminate toll charges but see motorists paying less, says Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
He said the takeover bid was for the “public good” with the absence of profit on the government’s part.
Under the proposal, he said there would be fixed toll rates but discounts of up to 30% during less busy periods and no charges during off-peak hours.
“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 during Minister’s Question Time in Parliament yesterday.
Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) had asked why motorists had to continue paying toll and congestion charges after the takeover despite Pakatan Harapan’s promise to abolish toll charges if it came to power after May 9 last year.
Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (PH-Setiawangsa) also asked Lim to clarify the benefits of the proposed takeover.
Lim said a study was carried out by a local financial institution before the takeover formula was presented and approved by the Cabinet in February this year.
He noted that the formula would 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 and 23 years.
“It will also see consumers saving up to RM180mil in toll charges during the concession period.
“This will help increase household income by at least RM2bil during this period,” he said.
Lim assured lawmakers that the takeover would not incur any cost to the government and that toll rates would not be increased.
This, he added, was because the takeover would be financed through bonds, with the congestion charges used to pay off the debt.
Later at Parliament lobby, Lim said congestion charges would be imposed during the concession period.
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 nominal toll charges might still be imposed for the operational and maintenance costs of the highways.
“If the government’s finances have improved, we should be able to abolish the toll by then,” he said.
Asked on a timeframe for the concessionaires to respond to the government’s takeover offer, Lim said no specific period was given although the government intended to implement the new toll system by Jan 1 next year.
The four highways 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 is RM2.47bil for LDP, RM1.98bil for Sprint, RM1.377bil for Kesas and RM369mil for SMART.