Govt studies proposal to put all highways under a trust body

Among the highways involved in the proposal are the North-South Highway, East Coast Expressway, Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway and others. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The government is in the process of studying a proposal to put all 35 highways including six that are currently under construction under one highway trust body, Cabinet minister Mustapa Mohamed said today.

Mustapa, who is responsible for economic matters as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said the proposal was part of the government’s efforts to reduce toll rates, including those on Plus highways.

“There is a proposal, for example, by one company to have a highway trust, putting everything in a trust. By doing so toll rates could probably be lower but as of now this is still a work in progress, as it is very complicated, we have to go through the details. It would take some time before it is finalised,” he said in an interview on TV3 today.

Among the main highways in the country which would be involved include the North-South Expressway and North-South Expressway central link, East Coast Expressway, Kuala Lumpur-Karak Expressway and others.

Mustapa said the government would also take a fresh look at all the terms of agreement agreed on by the previous government involving a reduction of toll rates on Plus highways.

Minister for the economy Mustapa Mohamad

“This study is in the discussion stage and is expected to be completed in the next six months. I don’t want to promise to reduce the toll rate,” he said.

“What we are implementing is to relook at all terms to ensure the best agreement for all five stakeholders … this involved seven of the 35 toll highways, and we will also review the rest,” he said.

Among the biggest stakeholders in the country’s highway concessions are Khazanah Nasional and the Employees’ Provident Fund, which jointly own a majority stake in UEM Group, which owns Plus.

An equity analyst said that the proposed centralisation of all highway concessions under one roof would be able to stabilise the toll price in the long run.

“However, we need to admit that when everything is centralised, profits made by highway concessionaires will also be reduced. Selling on certain stocks might be inevitable, but it would not be long as the main shareholders are the key role players,” she said.

On the impact on the people, she said the move will reduce the burden of frequent highway users especially those travelling to work on a daily basis.

“Highway users might save up a bit in the long run. But, for now, we shall just wait and see how many percent of the cut might take place,” she said.