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The government's sincerity in abolishing tolls

  • We believe Malaysians will give the government some time, seeing its sincerity in getting the tolls eventually abolished.

Sin Chew Daily

The prime minister's office said in a statement last Saturday that the Pakatan Harapan government would take over the tolled highways and abolish tolls in stages according to the respective highways' concessions, as promised in last year's election manifesto.

During the first stage, the government has already initiated negotiations with highway concessionaire Gamuda on the acquisition of LDP, Sprint Highway, Kesas and Smart Tunnel.

Once done, the government plans to replace the existing toll collection mechanism with congestion charge and collect the same amount of toll from motorists using the highways during peak hours, 30% discount at other hours and completely toll-free from 11pm to 5am the following day.

The proposal has triggered widespread discussions because PH promised before GE14 that it wold abolish tolls right away, and the public have had very high expectations for this.

It is therefore understandable that many are disappointed because the first stage post-toll mechanism is a far cry from what they have been promised.

From zero-toll to "toll-free or 30% discounts" during non-peak hours on four highways only, indeed there is a big gap between what road users are expecting and what the government now proposes.

The fact that the announcement was made after PH lost the by-election in Cameron Highlands and is gearing up for the battle in Semenyih, and that all the four highways are in Klang Valley, it invariably gives the public an impression that the PH government is doing this just to win the hearts of Semenyih voters.

Although the Semenyih battle is by no means a crucial one for the PH, a victory there nevertheless provides the much needed morale booster for the ruling coalition still suffering from sliding credibility as a result of its many policy U-turns and for reneging on its election pledges.

The announcement on the four highways gives an impression it has been made in a rush to let the people see that the government has not forgotten its pledge of abolishing tolls yet not to spend excessively. The 11-to-5 "toll-free" period may just be part of a contingency plan hastily put together to appease the increasingly intense frustration.

Even though he public and the opposition have been critical about the first-stage toll abolition mechanism, reassuringly the PH government has made a first move, and hopefully before the proposed mechanism is put into implementation, we will see something more comprehensive to take its place.

We all understand that toll abolition is an uphill task that entails enormous sums of money and highly complicated procedures. And we believe the public will give the government some time, seeing its sincerity in getting the tolls eventually abolished.

 

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