Frequent users of National Freeway No. 3 may need to pay more after the nation starts charging freeway drivers according to distance traveled, the National Freeway Bureau said yesterday.
Based on the proposed “pay-as-you-go” policy, each driver will get a toll-free distance of 20km per day. Drivers would be charged NT$1.2 (US$0.04) per kilometer if they drive less than 200km on the freeway, but the rate would drop to NT$0.9 per kilometer if they drive more than 200km.
Only drivers on north-to-south freeways will need to pay the new tolls. Those driving on east-to-west freeways would not be required to pay. The bureau said that the entire policy would be re-evaluated after a few years. The bureau is scheduled to enact the new policy before the end of this year.
According to the bureau, the new policy would cause the revenue of the National Freeway Development Fund, which is used for road maintenance and construction of new freeways, to decrease from NT$22 billion per year to NT$18.5 billion per year.
Those driving between Guansi (關西) in Hsinchu County and Baihe (白河) in Greater Tainan would see their toll fee rise from NT$160 to NT$244, the highest increase compared to other freeway sections in the nation.
People driving between Linkou (林口) in New Taipei City (新北市) and Wudu (五堵) would see their toll fee drop from NT$80 to NT$16, becoming the drivers who will have the largest decrease. Nine of the top 10 road sections with higher proposed tolls are on Freeway No. 3 and seven of the 10 sections with lower tolls are on Freeway No. 1.
The new toll scheme did not face much opposition in the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday, as lawmakers had demanded that the bureau give drivers a toll-free distance.
Lawmakers said the ministry seemed more eager to help Far Eastern Electric Toll Collection — the contractor operating the electric toll-collection (ETC) system — than guarding public interest.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) and Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said that the contractor can earn NT$1 billion per year and also gets to keep the interest generated from the tolls it collects.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said that the ministry has expanded the number of ETC lanes on the freeways and reduced the number of manual toll-collection lanes, which coerces people to use ETC system.
KMT Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that the contractor had refused to pay the penalty for failing to raise the usage rates stated in the build-operate-transfer contract. The government should consider taking over the ETC system and limiting the contractor’s profits from it, he said.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that while he understood legislators’ concern, the ministry is focused on whether the ETC system can be successfully implemented on all national freeways.