Sun, Feb 26, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Court ruling throws toll project into turmoil

By Shelley Shan and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications last night announced that it may appeal the Taiwan Administrative Court's decision on the operation of the new electronic toll collection (ETC) system for the nation's freeways.

The court issued a verdict on Friday saying that the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau made the wrong decision when it chose Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (遠通電收) as the best candidate to execute the project. The court revoked the bureau's decision, throwing the project into turmoil.

If appeals fail, Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co may be asked to abandon its contract with the ministry to install the nation's first ETC system, and the ministry would have to launch a new bidding process for the project.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) said at a press conference last night that for the time being Far Eastern will continue to operate the ETC system and accept applications to install on-board units (OBUs).

If appeals fail, "the rights of car users who already installed OBUs will be our priority," she said. She added that if the government loses its appeal, it will consider managing the system itself.

The Consumers' Foundation said yesterday that the government should give up any further appeals to the Supreme Court and halt the project. Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏), the foundation's secretary general, accused the government and Far Eastern of only considering their own interests and ignoring those of motorists.

"The verdict from the administrative court gives the government the chance to redeem itself," Cheng said. "The freeway bureau should forgo any further appeal and redesign the ETC system."

Far Eastern chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) yesterday said that Friday's verdict was regrettable, and that the company had competed fairly in the bidding process.

Hsu said that the company will leave open the option of negotiating a new contract with the government.

Meanwhile, legislators yesterday urged the government to nationalize the ETC system. People First Party (PFP) Legislators Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) and Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) called on the ministry to ditch the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model for the project, and nationalize the system instead.

"[The ministry] should ask Far Eastern Co. to suspend its installation of the ETC system and the government should take over the construction," Liu said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) agreed that the system should be nationalized.

Yeh said the government should investigate the bidding process for the project and punish officials who are in charge of government policy on the project.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) suggested that legislators should form an investigation committee on the matter.

"The Legislature should bear the responsibility to investigate the ETC bid in connection with collusion between government and businesses," she said.

Also see story:
Ruling on ETC dispute leaves motorists hanging

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