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New freeway toll system to be launched on December 30

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A new toll system for national freeways that will cut toll rates for drivers will be launched on Dec. 30, Transportation and Communication Minister Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday.

The revised rate will charge small vehicle drivers NT$1.2 per kilometer to drive on the island's freeways, with each car allotted 20 free kilometers per day, the National Freeway Bureau (NFB).

The NFB has not yet settled on the span of time drivers will be allowed to drive without charge on the freeways. Possible options are either one or three days. The number of days provided free-of-charge will be limited as a day's free service will cost the NFB NT$60 million, said Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁), head of the NFB.

Yeh originally declined to announce the actual date of the new toll system's launch, but revealed it as either Dec. 30 or 31 after being pressed by both ruling and opposition legislators. “The Executive Yuan will have to determine the ultimate date, but I approve of Dec. 30,” concluded Yeh.

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 units will receive a 10-percent discount on freeway tolls after the new toll system is launched. 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 a given day.

Previous Debts Canceled?

The ETC system had been used on average by less than 70 percent of drivers until June, a number which led Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co., Ltd. (FETC) — which was in charge of the ETC system — to be fined NT$404 million. Kuomintang Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) voiced his concern that the fine will be canceled out after the new system is implemented, to which Yeh replied that the case has been sent to court and that the MOTC will not back off in any respect.

Chinese New Year Traffic Looms

The first holidays the new system will encounter is Chinese New Year, during which time many will travel long distances for family reunions. The NFB is planning to allow free nighttime passage periods to relieve the freeways of heavy traffic, but the daily allotment of 20 free kilometers will be canceled during the holidays. The actual regulations for Chinese New Year will be announced after detailed discussions, said Tseng.

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