Give us a bly, Mr Toll Operator

Give us a bly, Mr Toll Operator

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

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Dear Editor,

My eyes are welling up with tears as I pen this letter. I just learnt about the potential toll increase and the fine prints of the long-signed agreement between the Government and the toll regulator.

Please note the following which is published on the Toll Authority's website: “By virtue of the Toll Roads Act and the concession agreements the toll road operator is entitled to a variation of toll once every 12 months effective on the anniversary date of the last adjustment.”

I also discovered that if this agreement is dishonoured, and the toll regulator experiences an operational loss, the Government has “to pay compensation for lost revenue for the period in which the actual toll levels are below those requested. This may arise either due to delays in implementing, insistence that a lower rate is charged, or where the request is completely refused” (Clause 22.3 of the Concession and Clause 1.3 of Schedule 15).

Still, I am calling on the Toll Authority to exercise some compassion at this time and give us a respite this year. This should not be too hard to oblige the public as, last year, they collected over $7.1 billion in tolls after their annual increase took effect on July 6, 2019. It is unlikely that their revenue will plummet in the absence of another consecutive raise.

I understand that profit-making is the heart and mandate of any business; however, the proposed increases are most unconscionable at this time.

This year has been especially difficult in more ways than one. Many people are now earning remarkably less than they used to. Some of us have been laid off, and others are struggling to salvage dying businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic and the pre-existing financial troubles have taken a serious toll on all of us. Our earnings are growingly incommensurate with the cost of living.

Moreover, if the proposed charges are ratified, taxi and bus operators will rightly demand a fare increase. It would be unreasonable not to grant same in light of the added expenses they will have to absorb.

I know the old routes remain viable alternatives, but just imagine how heavily trafficked these roads will be once 'normality' resumes and former toll users return to them. The congestion will seriously undercut labour productivity as workers will grow weary and restless in traffic.

Personally, when I use the highway, my commute is quicker and less tiring, and I am more productive at work. This was not my reality a few years ago when I consistently travelled other routes. I had to leave home in the early-morning darkness and I never made it back until nightfall. My eyes were regularly red and swollen, and my muscles ached with ceaseless exhaustion.

Please consider our plight. Our pockets really cannot bear another increase. We need time to regain some financial footing.

Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock

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