Nation’s longest highway will be toll-free, Putrajaya assures

A section of the Pan Borneo Highway in Sabah under construction in this file picture taken in November 2017. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Works Minister Baru Bian has dismissed concerns over toll collection at the Pan Borneo Highway.

He said Pakatan Harapan had made it clear that making the nation’s longest highway free to motorists was one of its election manifestoes, adding that it would keep that promise.

“Let me tell you very clearly, from the beginning there was no intention by the PH government that the Pan Borneo Highway should be tolled. This is one of our pledges.

“I give my assurance to Sabah and Sarawak there will be no toll there,” he told reporters today.

Sabah opposition party PBS recently cautioned against any U-turn by the government over its promise to ensure Pan Borneo is toll-free, following Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks that it was impossible to have toll-free highways.

“I sincerely hope this latest U-turn will not include this crucial road network for the sake of the people here,” PBS secretary-general Johnny Mositun said recently.

But Baru said people should not read too much into Mahathir’s statement, adding that the prime minister did not mean Sabah and Sarawak when he mentioned the toll issue.

“We understand Tun’s statement actually involves the tolls in the peninsula. I have issued statements on this and he (Mahathir) has confirmed them. It was also brought up in Parliament,” he said.

He said the government had to postpone the abolishing of the toll system in the peninsula due to financial constraints.

The government will find alternatives such as rebates, fixing or reducing the current toll rates as well as a halt on toll hikes, he added.

Baru said it was illogical for people in Sabah and Sarawak to pay for something they never utilised.

“We cannot be seen as paying (or) taking over the tolls in the peninsula we don’t even use.

“I think it is grossly unfair, and unjust. So that is one of the arguments that a lot of people don’t see. So no toll in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

On the progress of the Pan Borneo Highway, he said issues such as payment to contractors, land acquisition and eviction had delayed the project.

“We are talking to the project delivery partner and state government to resolve this matter because we want this project to be completed.”

Construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway is expected to be completed by 2023 for the Sarawak section and by 2025 for the Sabah section.