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Taiwan prepares for new toll system; launch date still unknown

TAIPEI -- Taiwan will change to a freeway toll collection system based on kilometers traveled by the end of the year, but freeway authorities said yesterday they could not pinpoint the system's launch date until final tests have been completed.

The Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau did confirm, however, that there will be a transition period of up to one week after the system is launched when tolls will be free to prevent motorists from being charged twice under the old and new systems.

The exact date when the 23 existing toll stations are closed and the new system is put into effect will be decided after a test report is completed on Dec. 18, the bureau said.

Under the existing system, small vehicles pay a NT$40 (US$1.35) every time they go through toll booths on National Freeways No. 1 and No. 3. A 10-percent discount is given to those who use the electronic toll collection system.

The new system will charge motorists tolls based on how far they drive. The first 20 kilometers traveled in a day will be free, after which motorists will be charged NT$1.2 per kilometer or NT$0.9 per kilometer after exceeding 200 kilometers, the bureau said.

The changeover represents a global milestone, with Taiwan the first country in the world to convert its entire freeway system from a conventional toll collection system to a distance-based collection system, according to government authorities.

The bureau said that under the new system, 70 percent of motorists can expect to pay about the same or less to drive on the freeway than under the old system.

The program has drawn mixed reviews from the public, with some motorists welcoming the new measure while others worrying that it could lead to more traffic jams.

They fear taxis and other motorists who opted against short hauls on freeways to avoid paying tolls might now use freeways because of the 20-kilometer toll exemption.

Residents in Southern Taiwan have also complained, saying they expect to pay more under the new system, according to a report on United Daily News.

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