MP sees possibility of freeze on toll rates

PETALING JAYA: Subang MP Wong Chen of PKR has urged the government to investigate a claim that PLUS Malaysia pays three times more for highway maintenance than the operator of Maju Expressway does.

Speaking to FMT, he said the government could use the findings from the investigation to argue against any application for the raising of toll rates.

He noted Works Minister Baru Bian’s statement that compensating the highway concessionaires would be enormously expensive and added that he did not see the buying out of shareholders as an ideal solution either.

Such a buyout, he pointed out, would necessitate a mandatory general offer, which might see share prices going up beforehand.

Wong Chen.

“So the best interim measure is to monitor the costs incurred by these concessionaires and ensure that they have a justifiable basis to raise toll rates,” he said.

Last October, Maju Holdings group executive chairman Abu Sahid Mohamad accused PLUS of being lax against leakage and wastage, saying the company was paying more for road surfacing than it should.

A news report quoted him as saying that PLUS was paying more than three times the amount his company was paying for the resurfacing of roads.

“I pay RM18 to resurface one square metre, and everyone else pays about the same amount,” he said, adding that PLUS was paying RM58 per square metre.

Abu Sahid, who was proposing to take over PLUS, said the money saved from plugging leaks and avoiding wastage would negate the effect of a freeze on toll rates.

Wong said highway operators were citing high maintenance costs to justify toll increases as allowed under concession agreements.

Recalling that Abu Sahid said he could freeze toll rates for 20 years if he were to take over PLUS, he said this meant the concessionaires could continue maintaining the highways while making money without raising tolls.

“So there is a need to clean up toll operations to make sure they don’t increase prices. The provisions on increasing prices can be renegotiated if there is no justification for it.”

Wong urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Securities Commission Malaysia to find out whether the maintenance costs were being inflated.

On Aug 13, Baru said the government would have to fork out about RM400 billion to compensate concessionaires if it were to abolish highway tolls.