Sat, Apr 09, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Russian officials examine National Freeway Fund

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

The nation’s successful management of the National Freeway Fund has attracted a group of Russian transportation officials, who arrived in Taiwan yesterday to gather information from officials at the National Freeway Bureau (NFB).

The officials came at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to listening to presentations by the bureau, the officials from the Russian Highways State Company visited the bureau’s headquarters yesterday, which is close to the Taishan (泰山) Freeway Toll Station on Freeway No. 1.

Thomas Maier, managing director of infrastructure at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said the visit was an “information exchange” where they could determine which elements of the Taiwanese model could be applied to the Russian system.

“It is interesting to see that the freeway system in Taiwan is a self-financing system,” Maier said. “Incomes from tolls and service areas, as well as other government contributions, can be reinvested in the domestic stock and debt markets to raise ongoing funding for road maintenance and other highway constructions. So we think that this system which has been built up over the past 20 years is a useful example of how it can be done.”

Maier said that the Russian government is planning to establish a system similar to that in Taiwan. It is much better to exchange real experiences with real system operators, he said.

Sergey Kelbakh, first deputy of the chairman of the board at the Russian Highways State Co, said that Russia had just begun implementing a toll-collecting system on its highways.

He said that the Russian Government had recently given the Russian Highways State Co the right to operate 2,000km of highways and the firm has plans to introduce toll roads.

Maier further explained the necessity of developing a self-sustaining highway system in Russia.

“Central governments have so many expenditure responsibilities that it is prudent to develop self financing schemes so that scarce tax resources can be focused on areas that need direct state support, such as schools and national defense,” he said.

When asked what he learned from the presentation that might be useful for his country, Kelbakh cited the pricing methodologies for freeway tolls.

As of last year, Taiwan’s National Freeway Fund has assets valued at NT$800 billion (US$27.66 billion) and accumulated debts of NT$200 billion. The fund receives approximately NT$30 billion in revenue each year, with half that amount being surplus. According to guidelines governing the use of the National Freeway Fund, the fund must be exclusively used to maintain and build freeways.

The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics has ruled that the nation’s freeway system must have a self--liquidation ratio of 78 percent. The government only contributed 22 percent of the fund.

The fund enabled construction of the Hsuehshan Tunnel and helped expand the length of freeways nationally from 400km to 1,000km.

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