By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
The study on the reduction of toll rates, which is currently being completed by an independent auditor, will be presented to the Cabinet in June this year.
Works Minister Baru Bian said the analysis will assist the government in obtaining data and recommendations pertaining to the reduction of toll rates in the short, medium and long terms.
“On Jan 28 this year, an independent auditor was appointed to assist the government to curb issues regarding the tolls.
“The findings will be presented for the Cabinet’s consideration and approval this coming June,” he told the Dewan Rakyat in his winding-up speech on the royal address.
Bian said the decision to appoint an independent auditor was made on Oct 31, 2018, after considering the direction of toll collections in the country.
The analysis was initially scheduled to be submitted to the Cabinet for consideration and consent in May this year.
The effort is in line with the Pakatan Harapan government’s aim to reduce highway toll rates and eventually abolish toll collections on all highways, including the North-South Expressway and Penang Bridge.
“That will only be implemented once the country’s finances have been stabilised — so for now, we are looking at ways to reduce the burden instead of entirely eradicating it,” he added.
In November last year, Bian said his ministry was given six months to hold discussions and settle the “toll issue”.
In February, the government proposed the acquisition of four highway concessions from Gamuda Bhd, which would bring RM5.3 billion savings in compensation that was to be paid to concessionaires for the ongoing moratorium on toll rate hikes.
The four highways are Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong, Sistem Penyuraian Trafik Kuala Lumpur Barat, Lebuhraya Shah Alam and the SMART Tunnel.
Upon the successful acquisition of these highways, the government will abolish the existing toll mechanism and replace it with a new “congestion charge” model.
Commuters, meanwhile, are expected to save up to RM180 million per annum with the proposed switch from toll charge to congestion charge during peak hours on the four highways.
Under the congestion charge model, the current toll rates will be charged during the peak hours of 6.30am-9am and 4.30pm-7.30pm.
Toll charges will be waived from 11pm to 5am, while there is a 30% discount during other hours of the day.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said the collection of the congestion charges would be sufficient to service debt arising from the acquisition, as well as to finance the operation and maintenance of the highways without requiring additional budget allocations from the Treasury.