Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was reported to have said today (25th February 2019) that the government cannot buy over every toll concessionaire in the country yet to abolish tolls as it will reduce public funding for other projects.
With regards to the frustration of the people who demand toll-free roads, part of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) election promise. He hoped that people would understand how the taxpayers’ monies will be used.
“Yes, the criticisms from the people is bound to come because we did not abolish tolls. However, the people have to understand that though they don’t have to pay tolls, the government will then have to pay tolls, and the government will pay tolls from the monies collected from the people.
“In the end, it is still the people who would be paying, though it is through the government. The government has to buy the highways. Whose money should be used for it? It is the monies from the taxes collected,” he was reported by Malaymail to have said.
He also added that the constant servicing and repairing of the highway roads after the government buys them over would leave a deeper dent into the government’s coffers.
“This also means that part of the tax monies collected will be used to service the roads, meaning the government will lack funds for other needed projects,” he said responding to questions to how PH would manage voter sentiment, especially when PH has yet to fulfil its election promise to abolish tolls.
Last Saturday (23rd February 2019) the government announced that they had begun talks with Gamuda Bhd for the acquisition of four highway concessions that the company has a majority stakes in, with the aim to abolish toll collection at those highways.
The four highways are Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (SPRINT), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (KESAS) and SMART Tunnel.
In a statement by the Prime Ministers Office, they have stated that it is one of the governments initiatives to reduce the cost of highway users.
If the acquisition is successful, the current toll mechanism for the road will be abolished.
Among the details in the statement, was that the “off-peak” toll rates between 11pm and 5am will be abolished, where the users will be able to use the highway for free.
Normal usage will also be given a discount of 30% compared to other toll rates current being used for normal hours. A ‘congestion charge’ will be used to afford the operation and maintenance cost of the highway with any excess will be channeled to a public transport funds to improve the quality of public transports in the whole country.
by Bob Tan
25th February 2019 17:30