National Freeway Bureau outsources service areas

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Apr 01, 2009 - Page 4

The Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau announced yesterday that it had outsourced the operation of freeway service areas to private contractors.

The bureau had previously managed the nation’s 14 service areas on Freeways Nos. 1, 3 and 5.

Four years ago, however, the bureau outsourced the operations of 13 service areas to private contractors under the operate-transfer (OT) model stipulated by the Act for Promotion of Private Participation in Infrastructure Projects (促進民間參與公共建設法).

The Shihding Service Area on Freeway No. 5 is currently the only one that does not follow the OT business model.

Its current contract, however, will expire in June next year, after which it will be switched to the OT model.

Revenues generated by service areas topped NT$2.8 billion (US$82 million) last year, bureau Director-General Lee Tai-ming (李泰明) said, with the bureau collecting about NT$500 million in fees.

Each of the service areas under the OT model serves as more than just a place where drivers can fill up their gas tanks, use restrooms or eat a meal.

The Taian Service Area on Freeway No. 1 in Taichung, for example, has an exhibition of beetle species that can be found in nearby forests.

At the Siluo Service Area on the same freeway, visitors can use their ID cards to borrow Taiwanese puppets and perform on a stage set.

The Nantou and Kukeng service areas on Freeway No. 3, on the other hand, have planted flowers to feed the purple milkweed butterflies that fly through that part of the country each year.

“People can now buy food, local delicacies, souvenirs, shoes and cosmetics at service areas,” Lee said. “They are more like mini-shopping malls.”

Meanwhile, in view of recent criticism of airport food, Lee said that the bureau had stepped up the frequency of inspections at food courts in service areas from once every two months to once a month.