Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Taxpayers would foot bill if government demands toll rate reduction

Published:Tuesday | March 22, 2016 | 3:17 PMDebbie-Ann Wright, News Editor - Radio
Transport Minister Mike Henry explains that there is a formula that is used to calculate the rates under the Concession Agreement signed by the previous Peoples National Party Government with the Chinese developers in 2012.

Transport Minister Mike Henry says the government cannot force the developer of the North-South Highway to reduce the proposed toll rates without taxpayers footing the bill.

Henry says the proposed toll rates published last week are not magical numbers pulled from a hat.

He explains that there is a formula that is used to calculate the rates under the Concession Agreement signed by the previous Peoples National Party (PNP) Government with the Chinese developers in 2012.

Henry says when the developer uses the formula and arrives at the proposed rates they are submitted to the Toll Regulator for approval.

The calculations are checked for accuracy and he says if the rates are in keeping with the concession agreement and the Government asks the developer to reduce them, the state will have to make up the difference

He notes that this would be a cost to taxpayers.

However, Henry says the government does not intend to go that route.

Henry says given the huge public outcry he hopes the developer, China Harbour Engineering Limited, will be sensitive and implement rates that will encourage motorists to fully utilise the toll road.

Meanwhile, Henry has criticised the PNP, saying it is hypocritical to ask for transparency in the setting of rates when the party was integral in the negotiations on how they are to be determined.

Today is the last day for members of the public to make submissions on the proposed rates which could see some motorists paying $7,400 for a two-way trip.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Ruel Reid says the government is to make an announcement tomorrow in relation to the toll charges.

He told a press conference today that the government is aware of the concerns of motorists and has been having discussions with the developer.