Here’s more on the government’s proposal to acquire highway concessions and abolish toll collection in stages, replacing it with a congestion charge model. The plan is to acquire highways which Gamuda Berhad has a majority stake in – Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (SPRINT), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (KESAS) and the SMART Tunnel.

Finance minister Lim Guan Eng said yesterday that the government expects the acquisition exercise to take up to six months to fulfill legal, regulatory and financial requirements, The Star reports. He added that initial projections estimate that commuters will save as much as RM180 million per annum with the switch from today’s toll to the congestion charge model.

The proposed takeover of the highways by the government is described as a win-win solution for all parties – the government (which is spending taxpayers’ funds, let’s not forget) and urban commuters.

According to the finance ministry, with this move, the government/taxpayers will save RM5.3 billion in compensation to the toll concessionaires for a continued freeze on toll rate hikes, which they are legally entitled to. In December, Lim said that the government will have to fork out RM972.75 million in compensation to 21 highway concessionaires for them to not raise toll rates in 2019.

As for commuters, we could save up to RM180 million per year and enjoy reduced traffic jam during peak hours. This presumes that a section of motorists will travel outside of peak hours to save on the congestion charge. Any surplus in the collection (revenue collected from the congestion charge will go towards the operations and maintenance of the highways, and repayment of borrowings) goes towards the financing, upgrade and maintenance of our public transport system.

The four tolled highways have 48% market share of the urban toll roads market (excluding PLUS) based on revenue collected, so this would involve many urban commuters. Here’s a recap of the original announcement by the PM’s office, and the leading government figures urging calm and deflecting criticism of the plan.