Govt offers RM6.2 billion to take over LDP, Sprint, Kesas and Smart Tunnel highways – no more toll?

The government, via the Minister of Finance Inc (MOF Inc), has made a RM6.2 billion offer to take over the operators of the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (Sprint), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (Kesas) and the Smart Tunnel, The Star reported, based on filings to Bursa Malaysia. The four toll concessionaires are all linked to Gamuda Bhd.

This plan was first mentioned in February, when the prime minister’s office noted that Pakatan Harapan has promised in its election manifesto to take steps to acquire highway concessions and abolish toll collection in stages, in accordance to the terms of the concession agreement. This is to alleviate the high cost of living for city commuters.

It said then that as a first step, the government will talk to Gamuda to negotiate the acquisition of highway concessions in which the company has a majority stake, which are the LDP, Sprint, Kesas and Smart Tunnel. Upon successful takeover of the highways, the government intends to abolish the existing toll mechanism, the statement said.

In today’s filing with Bursa, Litrak, the operator of the LDP, said it has received a RM2.47 billion take over offer from the government. The company also said the government has offered to buy its 50% owned associate company Sprint for RM1.984 billion.

The take over offers will be undertaken by a special purpose company wholly owned by MOF Inc, which is simultaneously making similar offers to acquire Kesas and the Smart Tunnel. Gamuda’s stakes in Litrak, Sprint, Kesas and Smart are 44%, 52%, 70% and 50%, respectively.

So, no more toll in the near future? Not likely. In February, the government proposed a ‘congestion charge’ system where commuters will pay what’s equivalent to the existing toll charges for six hours of ‘peak period’ a day. In the proposal, during the ‘off-peak’ period between 11pm and 5am, commuters can travel on the highways for free, while rates for ‘normal’ hours will be discounted by up to 30% compared to today’s fares.

The revenue collected from the congestion charge will go towards the operations and maintenance of the highways and repayment of borrowings, and any surplus collected will be channeled into a public transportation fund to improve the quality of public transport, the statement said.

Then, transport minister Anthony Loke explained that the congestion charge is to spread out traffic. “The congestion charge is imposed during the morning, during peak hours – at the same rate. What we are trying to encourage is for people to spread out traffic,” he said, adding that congestion charges was already practised in other countries.

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