PETALING JAYA, Dec 24 — The proposal to implement different toll rates during peak and off-peak hours has drawn mostly unfavourable response from consumer groups.
Although practised in some countries, with the most recent example the increase in the New York-New Jersey toll on Dec 1, doubts have been raised as to whether it can work here.
Recently, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government planned to introduce lower peak-hour rates, or season passes at discounted prices, to reduce the burden of higher toll rates on Malaysians.
He said a mechanism would be put in place to minimise its impact, and that toll rates had to be raised in stages as it was necessary to maintain the country’s highways.
Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said the proposal may only worsen jams during peak hours.
“People take the highway to avoid jams. If this proposal is implemented, it may not fit the purpose of using a highway,” he said.
“The scheme will be dictated more by when the roads are being used, rather than the road users themselves.”
Nadzim said that while the idea may be applicable to an extent, it may not benefit the majority of road users.
“The issue needs a more constructive and human approach. Prices in general keep rising, so the government ought to be giving back more to road users,” he said.
Consumers Association of Penang spokesman Uma Rasamy said it would be better to improve public transport.
“Concessionaires’ contracts should be reviewed to see if highway maintenance fees are accurately met,” she said.
“In Kuala Lumpur, tolled roads are everywhere. Is it fair to keep making Malaysians pay more?”
Fomca secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said any effort to reduce toll rates should be supported.
“Malaysians are paying too much. More efforts should be made to minimise such expenditure,” he said.
Countries with mixed toll rates
In January 2009, variable tolls were implemented at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two weeks after upgrading to a fully free-flow electronic toll collection. The highest fees are charged during the morning and afternoon peak periods — a 25 per cent discount applies for the shoulder periods, and lower charges are implemented at nights, weekends and public holidays.
This is Australia’s first road congestion pricing scheme, and has had only a minor effect on traffic levels, reducing them by 0.19 per cent.
Congestion pricing has been in use since 2007 during rush hour to maintain reasonable speeds within the city’s core.
Autoroute A1 in Northern France is one of the few cases of congestion pricing implemented outside urban areas. This expressway connects Paris to Lille and since 1992, congestion prices have been applied during weekends with the objective of spreading demand on the trip back to Paris on Sunday afternoons and evenings.
In March 2001, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey implemented a discount during off-peak hours for vehicles paying toll for several tunnels and bridges connecting New York City and New Jersey using the electronic E-Z Pass. Since March 2008, qualified low-emission automobiles qualified for a 50 per cent discount during off-peak hours.
As of Dec 1, 2013, under the third of five scheduled annual toll hikes on Port Authority bridges and tunnels, cars with E-Z Pass tags pay 75 cents more. That makes the E-Z Pass rush-hour round-trip toll US$11 (RM36.21), with the off-peak toll at US$9 (RM29.63). Drivers using cash continue to pay US$13 (RM42.80), while the tractor-trailer off-peak E-Z Pass rate rose from US$66 (RM217.27) to US$78 (RM256.78).
Norway implemented electronic urban tolling on the main road corridors into Oslo in 1990. The scheme was initially created as a conventional road toll for revenue generation reasons, but had the unintended effect of reducing traffic by around five per cent. Charges vary by time of the day. The legal basis for introducing congestion charging fee was approved by Parliament in 2001 and came into force in October 2011.
– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/off-peak-toll-rates-may-not-work-say-consumer-groups#sthash.rQMUu8Mj.dpuf