KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government will maintain current toll charges for 21 highways next year, as part of efforts to ease the burden of rising living costs, said finance minister Lim Guan Eng on Thursday (Dec 27).
In a statement, Lim said the freeze, which will apply to all vehicle categories, would cost the government RM972.75 million (US$232.8 million) in compensation payments to the relevant highway toll concessionaires.
"The list of 21 highways and toll plazas, which were scheduled to witness toll rate hikes, have instead had their hikes frozen," he was reported as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
"The comprehensive toll hike freeze is an ongoing effort by the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led federal government to alleviate the burden of rising living costs borne by all Malaysians."
The 21 highways include the North-South Highway, the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link Highway and the East Coast Highway Phase 1, among others.
The decision to freeze highway toll charges, which was made by Cabinet on Dec 12, is a "marked enhancement" over what was announced in November when the government unveiled the 2019 budget, Lim added. Then, the minister said the freeze would only apply to intra-city tolls.
On Wednesday, Lim announced that the PH government will resume cash handouts to low income families next month, with the first tranche of the Cost of Living Aid - worth RM300 per household - to be paid on Jan 28.
The government has received flak for failing to deliver some of its election promises, such as making all roads toll-free as well as the deferment of payments for loans taken for higher education.
Lim said in his statement that the government was constantly studying the best ways to fulfill its general election manifesto promises.
"The toll hike freeze is part of these efforts," he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
MOTORCYCLE TOLL CHARGES FOR TUAS SECOND LINK TO BE ABOLISHED
The Malaysian government will also abolish motorcycle toll fares for the Second Link, as well as the two bridges linking Penang to the mainland in 2019.
This was earlier announced when the 2019 budget was unveiled.
On Nov 4, a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of Transport noted Malaysia’s plans to remove motorcycle tolls at the Second Link from Jan 1.
"Singapore’s long-standing policy is to match Malaysia's toll rates. This reflects the shared nature of the Second Link,” said the spokesperson.
“Should Malaysia reduce or remove the motorcycle toll charges at the Second Link, Singapore will match Malaysia’s revised toll rates."