Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Legislators grill new transport chief over ETC controversy

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Newly appointed Minister of Transportation and Communica-tions Tsai Duei (蔡堆) faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers over the controversial electronic toll collection system (ETC) in his first appearance before the Legislative Yuan's transportation committee yesterday.

Tsai said that public policy should be executed in a manner that upholds the public interest, but he did not expand on how he would handle the troubled project.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said that because Far Eastern Toll Collection Co had been ruled to be operating an illegal project -- as a consequence of which the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract had been annulled -- the ministry should close down the ETC system and return toll lanes to other motorists.

PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that as the ETC system effectively had become a non-profit operation since the ruling was handed down, the ministry should take over and make it a state-run entity.

"The ETC system has forced [former MOTC ministers] Lin Ling-san (林陵三) and Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) to step down," Lee said.

"You [Tsai] won't be able to keep your job if you handle the matter using the same logic as theirs," he said.

In response to the lawmakers' suggestions, Tsai said that if the government took over the ETC system, there would not be a new review process, which the court ruled as flawed.

Ministry officials, however, appear to be divided on the validity of the contract.

The ministry's legal affairs committee said yesterday during the transportation committee's meeting that the contract between Far Eastern and MOTC had been invalidated by the Supreme Administrative Court.

Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安), director-general of the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, said last week that the ministry still considered the contract to be valid.

Lawmakers on the transportation committee also asked Tsai if the ministry was equipped to handle traffic flow over the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, which starts on Friday.

Tsai was hesitant to give an answer when he was asked to guarantee that there would not be traffic jams.

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