Wednesday, December 06, 2006

LDP to charge RM2.10?

Is LITRAK, the toll concessionaire for the 40 km-long Damansara-Puchong Expressway or Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) going to increase the toll from RM1.00 to RM2.10, an increment of RM1.10 or 110%?

Is the government going to give in to the demand from LITRAK?

There is an exclusive report in Sin Chew Daily today that LITRAK has applied for an increment of RM1.10, which will allow it to collect toll at RM2.10 from the highway users starting from January 2007.

According to the report, LITRAK justified this with the reason that out of the daily traffic volumes of one million vehicles which travel along LDP everyday, only 36% or 360,000 are toll payers whereby the rest are not but contribute to the traffic jam along the highway, more so when there are a number of highly populated residential areas opened along LDP for the past few years.

Another justification is that LITRAK is only allowed to review their toll charge two times despite granted a concessionaire of 33 years. The first is in 2007 and the second is in 2016. LDP started operation in 1999 and it cost LITRAK RM1.13 billion to construct the highway. Net profit generated from LDP has increased to RM79.7 million for this financial year ended 31st Mac 2006 which is equivalent to an increment of 42.7% from net profit recorded for the previous financial year.

Road users in Klang Valley have been heavily burdened and victimized with unbearably, unreasonably and not transparently charged highway tolls. The government is likely to give in to the demand of LDP as the government has been mentioning several times since mid-2006 that the government is not prepared to compensate highway concessionaires or to expand their concessionaire periods as they government has been paying huge amount of compensation to highway concession companies.

There are altogether 20 private highway and the government compensated them RM175 million and RM104 million to all highway concession companies in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Till 2005, the government compensated a total of RM38.5 billion to all the 12 concession companies and therefore draining a huge sum of monies from the government’s coffer which will likely prevent the government from further compensating private highway concessionaires anymore.

Anyhow the first remedy that the government should do is to be transparent by revealing the content of the privatization contracts so that the people can know what exactly is hiding behind the contract as to prepare the people with the knowledge of where exactly the people’s money spent.

This action shall be followed up by justifications and explanations from the government on first, why the government signed such contract with these 12 private companies, and second, are there any long term solution from the government to rectify the problem, and third, whether the government is prepared to hold a dialogue with various stakeholders and civil society to discuss any future planning to prevent the people from continuing suffered, victimized and burdened by unfair toll charge.

Else, if the new toll rate of RM2.10 is approved, the frustrations and dissatisfactions of the people, especially those residing nearby and using the toll on a daily basis, will reach a higher boiling point with or without the participation of any opposition.
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