Toll fees on the Zhengzhou Yellow River Highway Bridge in Central China's Henan Province were lifted on Monday, the provincial department of transport announced on Sunday.
The bridge, with a total investment of 178 million yuan ($28.3 million), had collected tolls for 26 years since it went into operation. It became a focus of controversy after an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) in 2008. According to statistics from the NAO that year, the loans used to finance the bridge's construction had already been paid back in 1996 by the tolls collected, and 1.45 billion yuan in fees had since been charged.
The cancellation of toll fees for this bridge has been long anticipated. However, the move has been met more with suspicion than applause. The public is not satisfied with the slow pace taken by the relevant authorities to lift the tolls, and people are also demanding to know how the illegally charged toll fees were used and also asking if other bridges and roads can promptly follow suit.
Toll fees have been a target of heavy criticism by the Chinese public in recent years. Many people admire the low cost and sometimes free roads in some Western countries, while hitting out at tolls on roads and bridges in China.
During the just ended holiday, the toll-free road policy during holidays issued by the State Council in August was seen as one of the reasons for the heavy traffic congestion.
It's estimated that the number of vehicles on roads increased by 120 percent after tolls on roads were temporarily lifted during the holiday. This mirrors the strong desire of the Chinese public for free roads.
The heavy tolls should be curbed, but on the other hand, the public should be aware that canceling toll fees too hastily could only be harmful to the overall development of the transportation system.
It's true that some roads and bridges are illegally charging tolls, using loan payments as an excuse. At this current stage, a more transparent information disclosure system and stricter financial supervision system should be established to supervise the tolls on these roads and bridges. Only by this method can suspicions surrounding the Yellow River Bridge be cleared up and tolls on other roads and bridges become more regulated and reasonable.
China is moving forward toward free roads and bridges, and this progress should be recognized.