KUALA LUMPUR: The congestion charge, which is to be introduced next year on four tolled highways in the Klang Valley, is expected to get even cheaper once the concession agreements expire.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (pix) said this was possible once the government completes its RM6.2 billion takeover of the highways — Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP), Western KL Traffic Dispersal System (Sprint) and the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) — from Gamuda Bhd.

He noted that the concession agreements for these highways will expire between nine and 23 years, meaning the congestion charges could then be reduced as there was no longer a need to repay the bond issuance for the takeover.

Under the current proposal, the government will not be allocating any funds for the RM6.2 billion takeover, as this will be funded through a bond issuance that will be fully financed and paid for from the collection of congestion charges.

“Once the takeover of the highways is completed, these concessions will not be extended, and will expire according to the existing agreements.

“Then, the congestion charges will be further reduced, and will only cover the operational and maintenance cost of the highways, without any form of profit going to the government,” he told the Dewan Rakyat, here, today.

Lim was responding to Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) on why the congestion charges were introduced to replace the existing toll charges and how the rakyat would benefit from it.

On a supplementary question, Lim said what was important was that highway users will be able to enjoy lower toll rates with the introduction of the congestion charges.

“This could only be done because we are a government that does not look for profit. If the previous government was just as people-centric as us, then they would also have certainly used this method and not allow private companies to benefit at the expense of the rakyat,” he said.

The government had last month announced that a congestion charge would be introduced beginning Jan 1 next year once the takeover of the tolled highways is completed.

Under the congestion charge, discounts of 30% will be given to motorists outside of peak periods and those who travel during off-peak periods will not need to pay a single sen.