With just one week before the date of implementation for its proposed toll increases, the Berbice Bridge Company Incorporated (BBCI) has put in a new demand for the Government to grant a 40-year extension to its concession period, that is an additional 19 years.
In a letter addressed to Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson on Friday last, the BBCI said such an agreement will “avoid the need for implementation of toll increases announced by the Company on October 16, 2018 and the implementation of toll increases in the immediate future.”
As such, the BBCI said it is seeking a meeting with the Minister “in good faith and in public interest, without prejudice,” before November 11, 2018.
The company assured that if the Government honours its demands, it will withdraw the implementation of the toll adjustments announced on October 16.
The Bridge Company in the letter signed by Finance Controller and Corporate Secretary, Stephen Rambajan, said such an extension to its concession will enable the BBCI to approach its lenders to renegotiate terms and conditions of its debts.
“If these negotiations with the lenders are successful, it will provide much needed relief to the cash requirement burden and, therefore, the need for toll increases at present and in future.”
“We are convinced that this proposal will allow the tolls to remain as is, and provides opportunities for toll reduction in the near future, removing the need for Government subsidy to the tolls and maintenance of pontoons,” the letter added.
The BBCI said it expects a response by Monday.
On October 16, Dr Surendra Persaud, the company’s Chairman at a press conference announced a revised fee structure that will take effect November 12, 2018 since it is operating at a loss.
To cross the bridge, cars and minibuses will have to pay $8,040; small trucks, pickups and four-wheel drive vehicles $14,600; medium trucks $27,720; large trucks $49,600; boats $401,040; and freight $1,680.
The Bridge Company says it is proceeding with the increases based on legal advice obtained from the Cameron and Shepherd Law Firm.
The proposed increase was rejected by the Government which said it will be examining its options to stop the company from implementing the increase.
The Government currently provides a subsidy to the BBCI but it has also offered to maintain the 39 pontoons of the bridge for the nine remaining years of the concession period.
The BBCI claimed that it is $6B in debt and was asked to submit its financial statements to the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.