Tolls to remain until govt finances improve

By P PREM KUMAR, ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By BERNAMA

The government has no plan to remove toll collections from all highways due to the country’s difficult fiscal position, but is seeking alternative solutions.

Works Minister Baru Bian (picture) said it is impossible for the new government to do away with toll collections in two to three months.

“We will hold on to the present toll collections until the financial situation of this country is healthy. This means we are looking at other alternatives,” Bian said at the Malaysia: A New Dawn 2018 Investors’ Conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Bian, who did not elaborate on the alternatives, said abolishing toll collection is not the only problem. Bian said his ministry receives RM600 million to RM800 million from the RM2 billion annual budget.

“Every year we get less than 50% of the RM2 billion budget and we have been asked to reduce further. We have a 30% backlog of maintenance to do.

“If we do not carry out the road maintenance, this backlog will rise to 40%-50%. We are going to plead with the Finance Ministry to get our full allocation.

“If we do not carry out the maintenance work, we will get potholes and other road issues.”

Meanwhile, Khazanah MD Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said the government’s review of toll concessions must involve the private sector.

Khazanah, which owns PLUS Malaysia Bhd, the country’s biggest highway concessionaire, is looking to restructure its infrastructure assets to meet Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto to abolish toll collection.

“The discussions on total reduction or reviews have to take into consideration the private sector and the compensation amount. To be fair, the government have stuck to its word,” he said.

Last year, an attempt to privatise the toll operator was made by Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed’s Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd. The construction services company made an offer to UEM Group Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to take over PLUS.

UEM, a wholly owned unit of Khazanah, controls 51% of the highway operator, while the EPF holds the remaining 49%.

PLUS has five concessions in total, namely Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan Bhd, Expressway Lingkaran Tengah Sdn Bhd, Linkedua (M) Bhd, Konsortium Lebuhraya Butterworth-Kulim Sdn Bhd and the Penang Bridge Sdn Bhd.

All PLUS concessions end in December 2038.

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