Tuesday, 11 March 2014

News briefs - Australia, Belarus, Israel

Australia - Queensland Government to privatise motorway company

Queensland Motorways is a company owned by the Queensland Investment Corporation, the Queensland State Government's holding company for commercial state owned enterprises.  It owns three key toll roads in Queensland, but also acquired from Brisbane City Council the Go Between Bridge, which I profiled over two years ago as being an unprofitable disaster.

Queensland Motorways have paid the Council A$112 (US$98) million for the 50 year tolling rights to the bridge.

Previously it acquired the disastrous Clem 7 toll tunnel motorway, which is subject to a lawsuit over demand and revenue forecasts.  It paid A$618 million (US$538 million) for the road, not bad given it cost A$3 billion to build.

So now the Queensland Government thinks it is a good time to divest itself of this investment.  The Australian reports it is worth about A$4 billion (US$3.5 billion)

The report says:

Groups likely to be interested in Queensland Motorways include superannuation heavyweight Industry Funds Management, Abertis/Hastings and groups out of Canada including the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board or the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

Of the listed groups, Transurban could purchase the asset with partners, a source said.

Belarus - tolling of existing highways to be expanded

ITS International reports that the Belarus electronic toll system has been expanded to a network of 118km of highways as of January 2014.  This expands the extent of the network to 933km, with the whole system installed and operated by well-known Austrian toll systems provider, Kapsch.   The expanded network will include eleven new gantries for charging and enforcement. The report claims that customers are registered from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Lithuania.

The system uses DSRC, not GNSS technology, paralleling that which has long been in place in Austria, and similar systems on networks in the Czech Republic and Poland.

I wrote about the Belarus system a couple of years ago.   It is branded BelTol  and charges cars €0.04 (US$0.06)  and up to €0.12 (US$0.17)  per km for trucks. Both rates seem rather cheap.  Germany charges between €0.14 and €0.29 per km for trucks, Slovakia €0.08-€0.24 and Austria €0.16-€0.44 per km.   No toll system in Western Europe charges cars by distance across a network electronically.

Israel - New HOT lane being studied

According to Israeli business news website, GLOBES, Ayalon Highways Ltd (a central government owned company responsible for managing Israel's Highway 20) is investigating the value of introducing a HOT Lane on the highway between Roads 1 and 5.  

However, the report is contradictory, which some claiming that a lane will be taken from the existing road, and the Ministry of Transport claiming that discussions are about a new (additional lane).  

The road will connect with the privately owned H-1 HOT lane that was opened in 2011 between Ben Gurion Airport and Highway 20, which I noted at the time,  and is driven entirely by heavy congestion on the existing lanes.  

The proposed lane would offer toll free access for buses, but the "high occupancy" requirement would be 4 car passengers, suggesting that there is a real interest in ensuring the lane maintains a good level of service, although it is far too early to consider what the potential toll levels would be.

Proposed new HOT lane in blue, existing H1 lane in yellow

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