Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Legislators oppose government's plan to control ETC

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government will take over the operation of the electronic toll collection (ETC) system if the Ministry of Transportation and Communications loses its appeal against the Taipei High Administrative Court's judgment, government spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said yesterday.

The decision made by the ministry's Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau to award the ETC contract to the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co was revoked by the Taipei High Administrative Court. The ministry plans to appeal the ruling.

"The government has stated that the ETC is a priority for the nation and the system must continue. If the ministry's appeal fails, the government will take over," Cheng said.

Cheng said that the government regarded the turmoil created by the ETC project as "a significant crisis in relation to the people's livelihood" and will deal with it promptly.

According to Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Tui's (蔡堆) estimate, it would cost the government about NT$3 billion (US$92.35 million) to buy Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co out of its contract.

"The cost of the deal will be covered by the `freeway fund.' The ministry will not expect the people to pick up the tab for this and we won't appropriate funds for it," Tsai said.

The plan has, however, met with opposition from legislators, with Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) demanding that the government suspend the ETC system immediately.

"The government should halt the implementation of the system temporarily until the suspected faults in the bidding process are uncovered through a judicial investigation," Chen said.

"After [the conclusion of the investigation], the government taking over the ETC's operation may be a viable option," he added.

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislative caucus whip David Huang (黃適卓) also opposed the government's take-over plans.

"The ETC system was constructed on the basis of a build, operate and transfer project because the government lacked money to do it by itself. How does the government now have the funds to take over?" Huang asked.

Huang said that the government's taking over the system would be inconsistent with the spirit of a build, operate and transfer project.

People First Party Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said that NT$3 billion was an unreasonable price to pay for Far Eastern Co's equipment.

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