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Highway concessions acquisition to take 6 months

PUTRAJAYA (Feb 27): The government expects to take about six months to acquire the toll concessions for four main highways — Damansara Puchong Expressway (LDP), Western KL Traffic Dispersal System (SPRINT), Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas) and Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART).

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the projected length of time was needed to meet regulatory, financial and legal requirements. 

“The takeover of the highways must be carried out at a fair and reasonable price,” he told a media conference at his ministry here today to announce that the start of operation of the official website for the mySalam insurance scheme.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister's Office announced that the government had begun negotiations with Gamuda Bhd to acquire the toll concessions on four highways in which the company held a majority stake.

In the statement, it said the government intended to abolish the existing toll mechanism and introduce a "congestion charge” equivalent to the existing toll for six hours of “peak” period a day.

For the “off-peak” period from 11 pm to 5 am, commuters will travel on the highway for free. At other normal travelling hours, they will get a discount of up to 30 per cent on existing toll rates.

Lim said excluding the highways under the PLUS group, the four highways controlled 48 per cent of the revenue of tolled highways in the city.

Based on initial projections, he said, users of these highways would enjoy savings of up to RM180 million annually with the switch from the current toll collection to a congestion charge.

“In fact, any surplus from the congestion charge collected will be channelled back towards the development and maintenance of the public transportation system in Malaysia,” he added.

Lim said the congestion charge could be changed depending on the time of usage and it would encourage highway users to plan their journey during the off-peak period.

“Under the new policy, users of highways during the peak period will also enjoy less traffic jam compared with the current situation,” he said.

He pointed out that the congestion charge collection should be sufficient to cover the repayment of loans taken for the takeover as well as all highway operation and maintenance costs, without the need of an additional allocation from the Finance Ministry.

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