Sunday, November 20, 2011

Subject: 'PLUS lying on toll compensation sacrifice'
Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 1:30 AM

'PLUS lying on toll compensation sacrifice'
Highway operator PLUS Expressways Bhd has "lied" to the people in saying that it is waiving RM6.5 billion in compensation from the government, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

The "waiver", Lim said, was accomplished by extending the toll collecting period on three highways.

lim guan eng pc on doctored pix and penang bridge 25th anniversary"This is subterfuge... there actually is a hidden increase," the Bagan MP told a press conference at Parliament House today.

Lim said this in reference to a report inNew Straits Times today that the joint owners of the assets and liabilities of PLUS Expressways - UEM Group Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) - have decided to forgo RM2.9 billion in outstanding compensation and RM3.6 billion as compensation for toll rate freeze from 2011 to 2015.

Citing a written reply from the Works Ministry dated June 28 that the Penang Bridge toll is slated to be in operation until 2038, Lim said this was actually a 17-year extension, for the toll collection on the bridge was supposed to cease in 2021.

"What waiver? They are lying. I thought only my children will pay the toll but now it looks like even my grandchildren will have to pay," he said.

"This deal punishes Penangites... in total (according to the reply) some RM37.7 billion have been collected by the 27 highway concessionaires when their cost of construction, including maintenance cost, was RM25 billion," said Lim.

RM13 billion in profits already made

Besides the Penang Bridge, the other toll operators given an extension are Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE) and North-South Expressway Central Link (Elite), for 11 and eight years respectively.

penang bridgeAccording to the NST report, the concession periods for Elite, which was to end on May 31, 2030, BKE on June 27, 2026, and Penang Bridgeon Dec 31, 2021, would be extended to concur with the new agreement with UEM Group and EPF.

"So why do we need to pay tolls for longer periods? Why do they need to extent the periods?" asked Lim, who pointed out the concessionaires have made RM13 billion in profits.

"The construction cost is only RM6 billion, so they have made over three times their initial cost," he stressed.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua also said that the extension of toll collection periods for two of the three highways that affect the island state "will be a burden".

"It's most unfair to Penangites," Pua said.

According to the report, under the new UEM Group and EPF agreement, all PLUS Expressway concessions will expire on Dec 31, 2038, with no further extension.

Why is Muhyiddin being a busybody?

On a related matter, Lim demanded to know why Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was all of sudden questioning the logic behind Penang's proposed third link between the island and the mainland.

Muhyiddin was quoted saying yesterday that the construction of the link might result in a waste of public funds.

"The MoU (memorandum of understanding) for the project was signed in April this year and it was witnessed by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao... so why is Muhyiddin asking the purpose of the project?" Lim asked.

"Since it will be an open tender, we will ensure everything turns out well," he said.

The project, estimated to cost the state RM5 to RM8 billion, is expected to commence in 2015 and by completed by 2020.

Lim said the undersea tunnel was to manage the future traffic and hoped that the federal government would lend its hand.

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