Toll rate outcry

Dalton Scott, President, Cumberland Tri-Sector Citizens Assn., Trevor Samuels, spokesman, National Consumers League; Ricardo Valentine, GM, Port Trailer Haulage Assn.
Opposition is mounting against the plan to increase Highway 2000 toll rates, scheduled to take this Saturday.
A citizen's group in Portmore, St. Catherine wants the hike put on hold for two years.
Dalton Scott, President of  the Cumberland Tri-Sector Citizens Association, told Radio Jamaica News that, with the country still recovering from the pandemic, a rate adjustment should not be granted at this time. 
Mr. Scott said some residents of  Portmore have been relocating because of  the high cost of  accessing the highway.
In that regard, he cited three cases, "where residdents said when they calculate how much toll they are paying, they have to find another place in Kingston to live," given the disparity between their salary and how much they are required to pay in the daily toll.
Consumers League
The National Consumers League has also raised alarm at the pending toll rate increase, arguing that it cannot be justified at this time, given how recent the last increase was.
It warned that the rise in the toll could lead to reduced traffic volumes on the highway.
A notice published last week by the Minister of  Transport said an application has been received for toll increases for the east-west leg of  Highway 2000 come July 2.
Trevor Samuels, spokesman for the Consumers League, told Radio Jamaica News he was surprised another hike was being sought so quickly after the last toll adjustment.
"We have not even got used to it (the last increase) yet, and then we hear that it's another one coming again, and I don't think the dollar has depreciated that much since the last price increase," he argued.
He's predicting that an increase will push the cost of  transportation beyond the reach of many  Jamaicans as it will compound the effects of  the spiralling cost of  fuel.
This, in turn, he said, inevitably meant higher prices for other goods and services.
The toll operator is seeking increases ranging between 9.09 percent for the Vineyards Toll Plaza and 26.67 percent for the May Pen Toll Plaza.
Trucking cost         
That prediction of the toll increase having a domino effect appears set to be confirmed, with Ricardo Valentine, General Manager of  the Port Trailer Haulage Association, declaring that truckers will have no choice but to pass on the cost of  the increased toll rates.
He said it is difficult for truckers to avoid using the toll roads, "in terms of the fact that it is safe... in a lot of instances it shortens the distance."
By the same token, he observed, an increase in the cost of using those roads will be passed on the clients of the trucking companies.
According to Mr. Valentine, the toll increase will add to the even bigger fuel cost concern for truckers. 
In that regard, he said, "based on what is happening internationally, we don't expect expenses to be curtailed any time soon."

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