Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Far Eastern denies reports it will stop running ETC system

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co yesterday denied reports that it has decided to cease operation of the highway electronic toll collection (ETC) system.

It said, however, that it would close down its service should the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) fail to give any positive response to a recent company request.

The company made the statement following a news report in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday that the company has sent a formal letter to the National Freeway Bureau earlier this week asking that the agency raise toll fees.

The fee charged each time a vehicle passes a toll booth is currently set at NT$3.4.

The statement added that the bureau's current fee level was unreasonable, and has made it difficult for the company to break even.

"Since the Supreme Administrative Court revoked Far Eastern's status as the best candidate to run the ETC, we feel we have lost any legitimacy to run the system," it said. "The company decided to continue operating the system because it is committed to offering uncompromising service to the 230,000 customers who bought the on-board units [OBU]."

The statement noted that the company's monthly overheads had reached NT$45 million (US$1.36 million), but the bureau has only been willing to give it NT$18 million per month.

The statement also criticized the bureau for doing nothing to solve the outstanding issues with the ETC system -- both in settling the service charge dispute and in determining whether the government should accept the 56.5 percent stake in the company donated by the Far Eastern Group.

According to the statement, the company will be forced to reduce the number of service hours in its retail stores and close all the recently-added stores as a cost-saving strategy.

Sources within MOTC suggest the ministry was not happy about receiving the letter.

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