Friday, March 12, 2010

Motorcycle riders in Japan sigh as reduced toll way plan is postponed

It seems that the long awaited toll road fee revisions have been delayed.Good thing is that the existing system will stay in place, that is, 1000 yen fare on weekends if you have the ETC electronic payment device.

"The government has decided to postpone full-scale introduction of an expressway toll cap from the originally planned June start until sometime after the House of Councillors election scheduled for this summer, according to sources.

The postponement is a response to opposition to the new system by railway and ferry companies as well as local governments seeking improvement of the expressway network rather than toll cuts, the sources said.

Initially, the government planned to simplify the complicated expressway toll system by bringing in a toll cap and making some expressways toll-free. However, the government is now backing away from the original plan.

The postponement by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama means the toll cap system will continue with the current 1,000 yen cap discount system on weekends that started in March last year. The government intends to set a cap for expressway tolls on weekdays too, regardless of distance traveled.

The most likely maximum tolls are 1,000 yen for mini vehicles, 2,000 yen for regular passenger cars and 5,000 yen for trucks.

The most important aim of the system is to simplify the expressway toll system since the current tolls are often criticized as complicated with discount rates differing depending on days of the week and hours of the day.

However, East Japan Railway Co. and the other six JR companies, as well as a nationwide association of ferryboat companies recently expressed concerns over the introduction of toll-free expressways as such a system may cause a decline in their incomes.

Some in the truck industry are seeking maintenance of the current system as the new system may increase tolls for trucks in some cases.

Another factor behind the latest decision is that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan has to consider the desire of local governments to build and improve expressways in their areas, thus giving itself the upper hand in collecting votes in the upper house election.

It decided earlier that it would use part of the money needed to introduce the new system to cover costs to improve the network.

In February, the government announced it hoped to start the toll-free system on 50 sections of 37 expressways throughout the nation in June.

As the introduction of the new system has been postponed, the current 1,000 yen system will be maintained on weekends even after May on regional expressways, except for free sections.

The government will maintain its policy of introducing the toll cap system, but does not have any plans at present for actually putting it into effect.

Even concerning concrete charges in the toll cap system, some observers point out that they will be raised from the currently planned level since they will be decided after the ratio of funds to be derived from the revenue source is made clear

Source:Full introduction of expwy toll cap postponed
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mar. 12, 2010

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