Pakatan Harapan’s toll plan wasn’t good either, expert tells Tony Pua

(FMT) – The government’s decision to discontinue Pakatan Harapan’s plan to acquire certain major highways was the right move, according to a transport expert.

Rosli Azad Khan, a transport consultant with more than 40 years of experience, said that PH’s plan to resolve the toll issue was flawed.

He was responding to a statement by DAP Damansara MP Tony Pua on the freezing of toll rates, which will cost the government RM2.25 billion in compensation.

Pua said the government could have avoided the costly decision had it proceeded with PH’s plan, which was to acquire the Kesas, Sprint, Litrak and Smart highways for RM6.2 billion. This would be financed through the collection of what PH called “congestion charges”.

Rosli said proceeding with PH’s plan would have been a mistake as the concessions for those highways would expire in five to 10 years.

“There is no good reason for the government to nationalise private assets and still make the people pay tolls,” he said.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. If the original toll agreements are lopsided, buying them over doesn’t make the situation better. Just let them expire and take over when they do.”

At the same time, he said, it would also be a mistake to compensate concessionaires to maintain rates.

If the agreements allowed concessionaires to raise toll rates after a certain period, he said, it would be better to allow the rates to go up than throw billions down the drain to maintain current charges.

“Even if rates remain the same, people will still have to pay tolls. It’s better to use those billions to improve public transportation and alternative routes that give road users better, cheaper alternatives.”

He said the government should negotiate a better deal with the concessionaires.

“The toll concessionaires should realise these are difficult times and that putting a strain on the people who are struggling or on the government through compensation is just not right. They have been making profits for years.”