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New highway toll system set to launch today

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The new freeway toll system will be officially launched today, following the removal of the original electronic tollbooths yesterday.

The first three days after the launch are slated to be a transition period, meaning the system will be halted from today until 11:59 p.m., Jan. 1, with vehicles granted free admission during the transition period, the National Freeway Bureau (NFB) said. As services, including the application and installation of the eTag electronic system, will not be affected by the three-day stall, the NFB encouraged citizens to apply for eTags as soon as possible.

The grace period is essential, as the NFB wishes to avoid charging vehicles twice within short distances after the new system launches.

Vehicles will not have to slow down at toll booths after the new freeway toll system is launched; the change has been estimated to save drivers between five and 30 minutes when traveling between the north and south of the island. The launch will also reportedly save at least NT$10 million in fuel costs and save up to 560 million freeway toll tickets, which will contribute to cost savings of between NT$1.8 and NT$2 billion.

The new freeway toll system will charge small-vehicle drivers NT$1.2 per kilometer to use the island's freeways, with each car allotted 20 free kilometers per day, the NFB said. However, if small-vehicle drivers exceed 200 kilometers within one day, fees will drop to NT$0.9 per kilometer.

Over 300,000 Vehicles eTag-less

Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. Ltd. (FETC) announced that there were still approximately 300,000 vehicles without eTag systems installed, and that the FETC will continue offering free installations next year.

The FETC has increased the number of staff serving in various service locations by 10 to 20 percent due to the flow of people applying for eTag installations recently. There are 842 places to apply for installation in Taiwan, with the FETC offering each vehicle one free installation.

A FETC survey showed that over 5.7 million people use the new electronic toll collection (ETC) system, taking up nearly 90 percent of the 6 million highway users in the nation.

The company also provides a smartphone application for people to keep track of their eTag accounts and the toll collections.

After the highway toll booths are torn down, 938 current toll collectors will be out of a job and some will be waiting for the FETC to arrange for new job opportunities.

“All of us have been feeling sentimental over the parting, but I am sure parting does not mean we will really fall apart, it turns us stronger instead,” said Gangshan (岡山) toll collector Huang Chung-guo.

Taishan toll collector Lu Li-chih praised his fellow collectors, saying that the staff insisted to serve their customers and stay in their spots until toll booths were closed for good yesterday.

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