Wednesday, 7 September 2011

News briefs from the Netherlands, New Zealand and Indiana

Netherlands

Dutch News reports that the Dutch transport Minister has announced that the A15 motorway is to be extended from Bemmel to the A12 at a cost of €1bn, of which 242.5 million will be funded from tolls, the rest from central and local government contributions. As much as the Netherlands has tried and failed to introduce comprehensive road pricing, it is good to see that tolling isn’t dead in the Netherlands.

New Zealand

NZ$0.5 million (US$) in unpaid fines have been accumulated since New Zealand’s first electronic free flow toll road was opened north of Auckland in January 2009. TVNZ reports that the New Zealand Transport Agency, the crown entity responsible for operating the tolling system and the road, will finally be calling in the debt collectors “Debt collectors will be visiting toll evaders with high levels of outstanding debt. If the debts remain outstanding, the next step for the NZTA will be going to the courts to get a summary judgement which will give the NZTA additional legal powers to recover debt.” It has taken long enough.

Indiana

NWI (North West Indiana) Times claim there is a real risk that the private owner of the Indiana toll road may default on its debts. The state itself faces no risk, as it was fully paid for the lease at a price of US$3.8 billion, but apparently ITR Concession Co is delving deep into a reserve account to cover its debt servicing costs.

The report notes: “Tolls for cars driving the length of the road are now $8.80 as compared to $4.65 when the lease was signed. Tolls for large semitrailer trucks are now $35.20, as compared to $18 when the lease was signed”. No doubt the owners are trying to make the road pay. Since then, the tolls for vehicle not paying by tag and beacon based account have increased to US$9 for cars using the entire road. However, part owners Macquarie Atlas Roads say no default is expected, and other owner Cintra said:

The reserve account was initially created exactly for the intended financial gaps that occur over long time periods of operations. That is expected during economic cycles. Naturally it's going to be accessed and utilized on occasion, which is a continued sign of fulfilling its intended use”. Naturally their shareholders will hope that this report is more fear than fair.

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