Tue, May 23, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Shortening of toll-free hours on freeways lambasted

INCONSIDERATE:The MOTC should take freeway users’ driving habits into consideration when assessing the times tolls should be imposed, a DPP legislator said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ decision to shorten the duration of toll-free hours on freeways during the long Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend was heavily criticized yesterday at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, with lawmakers saying that the safety of drivers would be threatened by the policy.

To facilitate the flow of traffic during the four-day holiday — which begins on Saturday — freeways are to be toll-free between 1am and 5am on Saturday and Tuesday next week. However, on Sunday and Monday the toll-free hours are to begin at 3am and end at 5am.

It is the second time that the ministry has changed freeway toll-free hours for long weekends or major national holidays, which in the past extended from 11pm until 6am the following morning.

The first change was made before the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday last month, when toll-free hours were reduced to 1am to 5am.

The most recent amendment drew fire from members of the Transportation Committee, who said that chaos ensued on the freeways during the same holiday last year after the ministry canceled toll-free hours completely.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀), who represents districts in Yilan, said traffic congestion occurred in the past when the government reduced toll-free hours, adding that congestion would hit a peak at about 6am if tolls are reinstated at 5am.

DPP Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清) said that the ministry would be putting freeway drivers at greater risk if the toll-free hours are set from 3am to 5am, as physical exhaustion is at its worst during those hours.

He suggested setting the toll-free hours from either 11pm to 6am or from 12am to 5am as the ministry has done in the past.

Toll-free hours for the four-day holidays should all be the same, he said.

The ministry should consider the driving habits of the majority of the freeway drivers in determining when to cancel tolls, DPP Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said.

He expressed concern that the ministry’s policy would encourage drivers to put off travel until late at night, which he said would expose them to greater safety risks.

Many drivers choose to use the freeways late at night on long weekends or major national holidays because the government has failed to alleviate freeway traffic during the day, DPP Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said.

The government should aim to deliver specific improvements to freeway traffic during the holidays, rather than debating whether drivers should be charged freeway toll-fees at night, Lee said.

The ministry’s measures were not aimed at collecting more money from drivers, Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said.

The toll-free hours were set at 3am to 5am because some experts suggest that it is better to encourage people to go to bed early and hit the road early, Hochen said, adding that people could also depart at a relatively cooler time of the day.

“Drivers are three times more likely to get into traffic accidents at night than in the day. The government should not encourage people to engage in risky behavior,” he said.

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