Highway congestion charges will be at ‘very reduced rates’, says Guan Eng

Lim Guan Eng says if the government’s finances improve in future, it will be able to abolish the charges.

KUALA LUMPUR: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has not ruled out the possibility that toll collection or congestion charges for four highways the government proposes to take over could be completely abolished in future.

He acknowledged that while the concession will end on time under the government, there could still be congestion charges at a “very reduced rate” for operational and maintenance reasons, which the government will later seek to absorb if it becomes financially viable.

“To be very frank, I am saying it will be at a very reduced rate, but we will look at the situation.

“If the government can afford (to absorb) it, I mean these are only operational costs, then at that time we can then say there will be no toll,” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby today.

Lim said the cost of maintenance and repairs will always be there but stressed that it was minimal compared to the financing and construction cost of the highways.

“Our intention is that by that time, if we are still around, we think the government finances will have improved and we will be able to abolish the toll,” he said.

Lim had stated in a written reply in the Dewan Rakyat that the Cabinet had agreed in principle to the takeover on Feb 27.

Lim said although the proposal was accepted by the concessionaires in which Gamuda has a stake, it is still subject to the Cabinet’s approval.

Last month, it was reported that Gamuda had accepted the proposed offer by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated) to purchase the group’s equity stake in the four highway companies.

The companies are Kesas Sdn Bhd (Kesas), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat Sdn Bhd (Sprint), Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak) and Syarikat Mengurus Air Banjir dan Terowong Sdn Bhd (SMART).

This followed the announcement by Lim that the government had made a RM6.2 billion bid to take over the four highway concessions.

He said this could save taxpayers RM5.3 billion in compensation that the government will have to pay the concessionaires to stop them from increasing their toll.

Gamuda has a significant stake in all four highways. It owns a 44% stake in Litrak, 52% in Sprint, 70% in Kesas and 50% in SMART.