Sunday, 20 January 2013

News Briefs - India, North Carolina, South Africa, UK

Apologies these are a couple of months late

India - GMR Infrastructure looking to sell down toll road investments

GMR Infrastructure owns six highways in India, and according to MyDigitalFC it is looking to sell between 50 and 74% of its stakes in three toll roads.

The report says:

GMR Highways has three toll roads and three annuity roads under operation spanning around 421 km. Also, there are three annuity-based assets under development, totalling around 309 km.

Overall, the company has spent around Rs 1,800 crore (US$332 million) on these projects till now.

Besides there are two toll roads under development in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka aggregating to around 260 km.

The company plans to use the funds raised from the stake dilution to finance the Rs 8,000 crore (US$1.4 billion) Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad mega highway project and also partially pare debt in the highways business.

North Carolina - Environmentalists oppose toll roads, because they are opposing new roads

NewsObserver reports that environmental groups are legally challenging new toll roads in North Carolina on the grounds that the need for them has yet to be demonstrated, and that new roads by definition cause environmental damage.

South Africa - Toll operator saves tree

The Witness reports that TRAC (Trans African Concessions), the private concessionaire, that owns and operates the N4 toll road, to relocate 1km of road away from a 200 year old tree.  The gist being that the company was willing to pay R1million ( US$112,000 ) to respond to public concern about the tree.

UK - Conservative Party MP floats reducing fuel tax replacing it with tolls

Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire, has proposed that there be more widespread use of tolls in the UK, and that such tolls should enable a reduction in fuel excise duty, according to the Daily Telegraph.  She is a member of the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative backbenchers who themselves support a more market oriented approach to highways.

Some statements from MPs include:
- Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne  said "Our approach is you should reduce fuel duty, which should reduce its impact. Getting private finance into this makes sense. To expect the taxpayer to pay for our roads without making any distinction between those who do and don’t use it is unfair. I think if there was a real debate we could see a cultural shift.”
- Charlie Elphicke, MP for Dover was reported saying ""The M6 toll has been relatively successful,' he said. Mr Elphicke added that private finance should not only be used for new roads but tolling should be considered where existing roads are widened. "While public finances are in the state they are in, it is something worth looking at."
- Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin said: "Toll roads have a part to play in a mixed economy of of providing new roads as long as there are safeguards about the financial viability and the prices are kept affordable.”

Of course I agree, but it needs to be more strategic, a more comprehensive new deal for motorists that engenders trust in pricing, which simply doesn't exist now.

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