Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Chunghwa ready to help operate ETC

By Lisa Wang and Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The nation's biggest telecom operator, Chunghwa Telecom Co, yesterday said the company had agreed to temporarily co-manage the operation of the nation's first electronic toll collection system.

"In the interim period we will help to ensure the system continues to operate properly, but we don't plan to invest in the business," said Chang Feng-hsiung (張豐雄), a spokesman for Chunghwa Telecom, in a phone interview.

More talks would be held to decide the details, Chang said, adding that Chunghwa Telecom owned the technology to operate the system.

Chunghwa Telecom had planned to run the electronic toll system in 1998, but was unable to tap into the lucrative business as the idea was rejected by lawmakers, according to Chang. The system has been run by Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co.

But the company's status as the "most qualified candidate" for the highway ETC system was revoked following a ruling by the Administrative Supreme Court on Thursday.

Far Eastern yesterday said it was willing to co-run the electronic toll collection system with Chunghwa Telecom during the transitional period.

Battered by disputes and criticism, the firm suggested on May 22 that the government take over the management of the system to "ensure the interests and rights of the system's 210,000 users," Far Eastern said in a press release issued yesterday.

The firm stressed that if the government decides to reopen bidding to select another operator, the firm would need to consult with its four shareholders on whether to bid again to run the system.

"Currently we have yet to reach a decision," the statement said.

If Far Eastern decides to drop out of the bidding, ETC users would have to change their on-board units.

Far Eastern claimed it had invested nearly NT$3 billion (US$91.27 million) during the first six months of operations.

The firm has allowed users to claim a full refund, but as of 4pm yesterday just 15 consumers had chosen to take their money back, it said.

At the same time, 123 consumers applied for device installation and 1,037 users added value to their ETC cards.

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