The government’s proposed RM6.2 billion takeover of four highway concessionaires will not see motorists be free of toll, but we’ll be paying less, according to Lim Guan Eng, reported by The Star.

The four highway concessions are Litrak (the operator of LDP), Sprint, Kesas and the Smart Tunnel. Gamuda owns significant stakes in the companies, and its board of directors has voted to accept the government’s offer.

According to the finance minister, the takeover bid is being done in the name of public interest. With the congestion charge system in place, the highways will be toll-free during off-peak hours and toll rates will be 30% cheaper outside of peak hours.

“This is because the government is not an organisation looking to make a profit. We have taken out the element of profit and are doing it for the public good unlike private enterprises which must make a return,” he said in parliament today.

Answering questions from MPs, Lim said that a study was conducted by a local financial institution before the takeover formula was presented and approved by the cabinet in February. He added that the formula will see the government save at least RM5.3 billion in compensation to the four concessionaires for not raising toll rates over a period of between nine and 23 years.

“It will also see consumers saving up to RM180 million in toll charges during the concession period which will help increase household income by at least RM2 billion during this period,” he said.

The minister stressed that the highway takeover move will not incur cost to the government and that toll rates would not be increased. This is because the takeover will be financed through bond issuance, with congestion charges used to pay off the debt.

Lim later told reporters at the parliament lobby that congestion charges will be imposed throughout the concession periods (between nine and 23 years), but it was the government’s hope to abolish toll altogether after that. However, nominal toll charges may still be imposed to cover operational and maintenance costs.

The government intends to implement the new congestion charge system by January 1 next year.