PETALING JAYA: The government will soon decide whether to allow the rate for eight tolled highways to be increased. Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said maintaining the toll charges at the current rate means the government has to pay compensation to the concessionaires, Sin Chew Daily reported today. Huge compensation payouts will burden the government with long-term debts, he said. Fadillah said the government is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to dealing with highway toll issue because there are only two options under the toll restructuring plan: allow the rate to be increased or pay compensation, i.e. the people pay more for using the road or the government foots a hefty bill. Speaking to the daily, the minister disclosed that under agreements signed with highway concessionaires, they are allowed to increase the rate for eight highways on Jan 1 this year. The eight highways are North-South Expressway, Linkedua, Kesas, Elite, LDP, Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE), Seremban-Port Dickson Highway (SPDH), and New North Klang Straits Bypass Expressway (NNKSB). If the concessionaires are not allowed to increase their charges, the government has to pay compensation amounting to RM593 million to date. “If the government delays in approving the toll hike, the amount (of compensation) will keep increasing every year. In other words, it will become a long-term debt for the government.” Fadillah said from 2008 to 2014, the government, out of consideration for the welfare of road users, rejected requests by highway concessionaires to increase toll rates and as a result it had to pay more than RM2.2 billion in compensation to the concessionaires. On the government’s current negotiation with highway concessionaires, which is to be concluded soon, he declined to give any hint whether the toll rate will go up. Upon conclusion of their talks, the committee tasked with negotiating with the concessionaires concerned on toll rate restructuring will submit its report to the Cabinet for a decision, he said.