Tuesday, 21 August 2012

News Briefs - Australia, Brazil, China, India

Australia - Melbourne's car park congestion tax to stay despite low impacts

Public broadcaster ABC reports that the Victorian Government is likely to keep the tax on inner city car park spaces intended to reduce congestion, despite a study that claims it has had little effect on congestion.

Inner city parking taxes are often cited as low cost alternatives to implementing congestion pricing.  50,000 car park spaces in downtown Melbourne are subject to such a tax which is either A$650 (US$682) or A$910 (US$956) a year depending on the location.  The tax was introduced in 2006 and raises A$46 million (US$48 million) a year in revenue for the Victorian State Government.

A Monash University study indicated that part of the tax was being absorbed by car park operators and that there was minimal impact on congestion, it suggested that a better option would be a cordon based congestion charge, although motorist lobby group the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) rejected that in a report in the Herald-Sun newspaper claiming motorists are already over taxed, preferring more money to be spent on transport projects.

Brazil - Expiring toll road concessions to be retendered

Nasdaq reports that according to the Estado de S Paulo newspaper, the Brazilian government has decided that when the first toll road concessions expire in 2015 it will re-tender them with the intention that rates of return should be lower.   It will also specify that tolls can only be charged after a certain proportion of improvements to highways have been undertaken by a concessionaire.

"To ensure that 5,700 kilometers of two-lane highways are expanded into four-lane highways by 2018, the government will stipulate that operators start charging tolls only after 10% of the lane-duplication process is already executed" ..."As part of a package to improve transportation infrastructure, the federal government plans to license 7,500 kilometers of highways to private operators for a 25-year period".

Concessionaires have expressed concern that environmental licencing imposes a cost on development that will slow down the period between when they start work on a project and can start charging tolls.

China - Beijing traffic plan includes concept of congestion pricing

Global Times reports that Beijing is to get congestion charging included in its latest traffic plan, although there are no details about what congestion pricing will look like for the city.  The article has comments from an academic who says Beijing also needs more rail and congestion is inevitable with fast growth, but also a local resident who uses public transport and supports the idea.  I wrote some time ago about potential options for congestion charging in Beijing.

India - Macquarie SBI buys into Indian concessionaire

According to NetIndian News Network, Australian/Indian joint venture Macquarie SBI Investment Fund (MSIF) (comprising Macquarie Capital Group and the State Bank of India) has announced it is investing US$150 million into Ashoka Concessions Ltd (ACL) of India, along with SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Trust.  It would appear likely that the reason for the MSIF (and SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Trust) is that Macquarie Capital is restricted from investing in its own right in Indian infrastructure because of foreign ownership limit laws (and the State Bank of India is keen to use foreign capital and expertise).

ACL is a 100% subsidiary of Ashoka Buildcon Ltd (ABL), an Indian engineering and construction firm.  ACL reportedly owns 7 concession toll roads comprising 3,018 lane km (630 length km). ABL itself has a portfolio of 12 Build Own Transfer (BOT) road projects in India (with 6 under construction) excluding its portfolio of footbridges.  Not all of these projects are tolled.

ACL's projects have a construction cost of US$1.5 billion.  78% of the traffic is commercial.  Average remaining concession period is 22.7 years.  This is MSIF's first road investment and will comprise 13% of MSIF's portfolio value.

Macquarie SBI published a presentation with more detail about the investment.

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