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New distance-based freeway toll charges near debut

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A new toll rate will charge small vehicle drivers NT$1.2 per kilometer to drive on the island's freeways, with each car allotted 20 kilometers free per day, the National Freeway Bureau (NFB) announced yesterday.

Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that this new toll system, which will charge drivers according to the distance driven on freeways, is expected to be launched by the end of this year, but the exact timeframe of the launch will be announced by next Wednesday.

According to the NFB, the rate for drivers with small vehicles will drop from NT$1.2 to NT$0.9 per kilometer if they drive over 200 kilometers within one day.

The NFB said that in order to encourage drivers to continue using the electronic toll collection (ETC) system, all vehicles equipped with ETC will receive a 10-percent discount on freeway tolls after the new toll system is launched.

According to the NFB, large vehicles will be charged NT$1.5 per kilometer while trailers will be charged NT$1.8 per kilometer, but both are eligible to receive 25-percent discounts on tolls provided they travel over 200 kilometers within the given day.

Peng Huan-ju (彭煥儒), chief of the bureau's business division, said that the current freeway toll system has been in operation for nearly 40 years, so it will require time for the officials and drivers to get used to the new toll system.

“The bureau has scheduled a promotional period during which people can use the freeways for free, but details will be determined and announced by the Transportation Ministry along with the launch of the new toll system,” said Peng.

“If the bureau wants to set a period of time during which drivers can use the freeways free of charge, the NFB's income will decrease by anywhere from NT$50 million to NT$60 million per day,” said Peng. “Therefore, officials will carefully look into how many days drivers can enjoy gratis use of highways.”

When asked whether offering drivers free highway tolls might encourage more cars to take to freeways and result in traffic jams, Peng said that based on past experiences, the amount of cars using the freeways during free hours would increase by around 10 percent.

“To avoid traffic jams, the bureau will enforce traffic control by carrying out ramp controls and other related measures,” said Peng.

Taiwan Becomes the First Country to Use New System

Taiwan will become the first country to completely switch its toll system from charging drivers according to the number of times they pass through toll booths to an amount based on distance traveled on its freeways, the NFB said.

The bureau said that there are over 40 countries promoting the ETC system and charge drivers based on the distances they travel on freeways, but the toll system does not apply to all freeways in those countries.

According to the NFB, many countries, including Japan, Korea, and China have sent experts to Taiwan to observe how it is promoting its new freeway toll system.

The NFB said that each country encounter similar issues when launching new freeway toll systems, but charging drivers based on the distances traveled is more fair and eco-friendly, as the new system can save on printed toll-tickets.

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