(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): While the Cabinet decision last week to disallow any toll hike for the North-South Expressway next year is to be welcome, the Cabinet should also disallow some RM200 million compensation to PLUS for the decision. Last year, PLUS was compensated with RM176 million cash of taxpayers' money by the government for the delay and reduction in toll increase for the North-South Expressway in 1996.
If the Government is going to compensate PLUS some RM200 million compensation for disallowing it to increase toll rate next year, it would end up as a burden on the people through the need for higher government expenditure which must come eventually from the people!
Malaysians now have a higher expectation of accountability and transparency from the government, and they want to know whether PLUS is prepared to fully absorb the no-toll-rate increase decision without imposing a burden on the public purse.
There is a need for a full renegotiation on the North-South Expressway toll contract to end the annual increase of toll for the next 22 years as the original contract was too one-sided without fully taking into account the interests of the public and future generations.
According to PLUS forecasts, it expects to collect over RM80 billion from toll on the North-South Expressway during the 30-year concession period. However, this is only a conservative estimate, as with the vastly increased traffic volume in the past few years as compared to the forecast traffic volume, PLUS' total revenue might be exceeded from 50 to 100 per cent, which could bring it to the region between RM120 billion to RM160 billion.
Since June this year, Malaysians have paid PLUS over RM3.2 billion in toll for the use of the North-South Expressway. The time has come for the North-South Expressway concession to be renegotiated to make it fairer to the commuters.