Minister announces ‘pay-as-you-go’ freeway policy

ON THE ROAD::Under the policy, drivers on north-south freeways will have a 20km toll-free concession, after which they must pay NT$1.20 per kilometer

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - Page 3

A “pay-as-you-go” policy on national freeways is set to be implemented in August or September, Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday, adding that drivers on the north-south freeways would have a toll-free distance of 20km.

Yeh said people driving on the east-west freeways would not be required to pay toll fees for now, adding that the ministry would reconsider this measure after it has been implemented for between two and three years.

Yeh made the announcement during a briefing to the legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Last year, the National Freeway Bureau had proposed three possible toll options.

The first would not allow freeway users to drive even 1km toll-free, with each car being charged NT$0.82 per kilometer traveled. The second would give each driver a toll-free distance of 10km per day, with a NT$1 toll for each kilometer traveled thereafter.

The third would increase the daily toll-free distance to 20km, but also push the toll up to NT$1.20 per kilometer if a person drives between 20km and 200km. The rate would drop to NT$0.9 once drivers pass the 200km mark.

Yeh said that the tolls previously proposed may need to be adjusted as the plans were proposed on the basis that both the east-west and north-south freeways would be considered tollways, adding that the ministry would brief the committee about the changes to the toll fees at the end of this month or the beginning of next month.

Results from a latest poll conducted by the bureau also showed that about 40 percent of the population supported the plan for a 20km toll-free concession.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said the bureau collects NT$22 billion in freeway tolls every year and should consider lowering the rate if annual revenue exceeds that amount.

Other DPP legislators, including Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) and Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), said that the east-west freeways should remain toll-free.

In response, Yeh agreed to lower the rates if the toll-fee revenue exceeds NT$22 billion per year.

However, he said that the ministry would have to study the possibility of keeping east-west freeways toll-free.

Meanwhile, Yeh apologized to the public for the ministry’s postponement of the official launch of the 40km Wugu-Yangmei Overpass (五楊高架橋) four times.

The ministry opened the section between Jhongli (中壢) and Yangmei (楊梅) — 12km in distance — to traffic in December last year. However, the section between Wugu and Jhongli has not yet become operational.

Yeh had announced that the section would be open for traffic yesterday, but the National Expressway Engineering Bureau said early last week that it would miss its goal again.

Yeh said he would not pick any specific new launch date, adding that the section would be launched only once it is certified safe.

National Expressway Engineering Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said that the overpass’ safety assessment would be conducted by the Chinese Society of Structural Engineering, adding that the overpass would undergo a loading test prior to the assessment.