The estimated travel time between Taipei and Kaohsiung will remain about six hours over the Lunar New Year holiday, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday, despite the introduction of the government’s electronic “pay as you go” system.
Half of the toll gates on the nation’s freeways have been removed as part of the launch of the new toll collection policy earlier this month, where drivers pay for the kilometers recorded on their eTags.
Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) downplayed the lack of improvement in journey times by saying the expected holiday freeway traffic volume would increase by an average of 60 percent to 100 percent compared with that of a regular day.
He said that the electronic toll collection system has helped reduce Taipei-to-Kaohsiung travel by 10 or 15 minutes, and that holiday drivers would be able to maintain an operational speed of 60kph, rather than speeds of 80kph to 90kph.
“The six-hour rule remains our standard to regulate freeway during the holiday. At the same time, we will be doing all we can to smooth holiday traffic, in particular, controlling traffic from feeder roads or on ramps,” Tseng added.
The bureau yesterday announced its master plan to transport homebound travelers, which includes air, sea, highway and railway transport.
The bureau estimated the heaviest traffic could occur on the third and fourth days of the holiday, when volumes could hit 3 million.
“The freeway traffic would be mainly caused by people returning to their workplaces, as well as those using the holidays to get around,” Tseng said.
The bureau said that travelers should prepare for heavy traffic, with peak hours between 8am and 1pm, as well as between 3pm and 12pm.
Meanwhile, technical problems surrounding the automatic eTags remained the focus at the ministry’s press conference yesterday.
Bureau statistics showed that about 13.35 million transactions per day are recorded by the gantries, with the number of eTag transactions recorded during the holiday likely to top 25 million.
The bureau had said on Monday that it would start evaluating the performance of the toll collection system on Lunar New Year’s Eve, adding that it would stipulate within one week the key performance indicators (KPI) for Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co, the toll collection contractor.
Peng Huan-ju (彭煥儒), the head of the bureau’s business division, said the government’s contract with the FETC had listed two key standards: The fee collection success rate must reach 99.8 percent, whereas accurate toll charges must exceed 99 percent.
However, he said that the KPI should be stricter than the current stated standards.
Peng added the Legislative Yuan had passed a resolution to waive processing fees for non-eTag users if they choose to pay the toll fees at convenience stores.
However, Far Eastern spokesperson Josephine Chou (周世惠) said the resolution, if enforced, would be unfair to eTag users.
“We waived the processing fee for eTag users because they deposit the money in the eTag account in advance,” she said.