Highway users relieved over toll rate reduction

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 19): Various quarters, especially highway users expressed relief over the Government’s decision not to sell the Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS) Malaysia Berhad and to reduce the toll rates by 18 percent.

The decision has ended rumours about the sale of the country’s biggest highway concessionaire and the PLUS takeover issue which had attracted at least five bidders including Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd and businessman Tan Sri Halim Saad and partner Datuk Wong Gian Kui.

Universiti Tun Abdul Razak economist Prof Emeritus Dr Barjoyai Bardai described the decision not to sell PLUS as a positive move because the highway concessionaire is the country’s important treasure.

“Malaysia has succeeded in making PLUS a viable mega project and if PLUS is to be sold, it would be a less productive effort since it had involved high investment before.

“PLUS is also a resource that has similar potential like Petronas. Compared to Petronas that relies on natural resources, PLUS has the advantage in terms of consumers who use its services,” he told Bernama.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday that the Government will not sell PLUS Malaysia Berhad and has decided to reduce the toll rates by 18 percent.

In a statement today, the Prime Minister’s Office said the toll reduction would begin as early as Feb 1 this year and there will be no hikes until 2058.

The highways include the North-South Expressway (NSE), New Klang Valley Express (NKVE), North-South Expressway Central Link (Elite), Malaysian Singapore Second Link (Linkedua), East Coast Highway Phase Two (LPT2), Port-Dickson-Seremban Highway (SPDH), Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE) and Penang Bridge (JPP).

Barjoyai said with the reduction of the toll rates, PLUS would be facing a new challenge to maintain the viability and survival of the company

“PLUS has indeed begun to generate incomes from other means than toll collection, for instance from the advertisement along the highway, rest areas and teak tree planting along the highway.

“Perhaps in the long term, PLUS could operate its own petrol stations or build and increase the number of hotels for highway users and so on,” he said.

Meanwhile, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said consumers would be pleased by the reduction of toll rates even though they really hoped for the toll to be abolished.

“However, people need to understand that highways have their maintenance costs. If there are no toll charges, who will be responsible for the costs? We will see that the roads deteriorate and the R&R area is not well kept,” he said.

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Mohd Yusof said with the toll charges, the concessionaires would make sure the highways were in good condition.

Meanwhile, a PLUS Expressway user Nur Athirah Saifuddin, 25, said the toll reduction was welcome especially for long haul journeys during the festive season or returning to the hometown on the weekends.

“For parents with children in boarding schools, this toll reduction will help reduce their financial burden when they visit their children on weekends or once a month,” Nur Athirah added.

Another highway user, M Nathan said he was grateful for the government’s move.

“Every time I return to my hometown in Perak, I need to pay over RM100 for the round-trip toll which is quite burdensome,” said Nathan who lives in Skudai, Johor.

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