Toll road owners buck freebie week

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-13 0:45:03


An apparent struggle between operators of the country's toll roads and an order from the State Council has many motorists hoping the central government's directive will prevail as intended, reported China Business News Wednesday.

The State Council approved a plan on August 3 to lift toll fees on passenger cars with no more than seven seats during four national holidays of Spring Festival, Tomb-sweeping Day, Labor Day and National Day.

This year's National Day holiday coincidently comes the day after Mid-Autumn Festival, which is governed by the lunar calendar, creating an eight-day national holiday. The State Council has ordered that passenger cars be allowed to travel free on the country's toll roads from September 30 to October 7.

Toll road companies, which are often a private, government partnership, are likely to lose billions of yuan as millions of cars take to the open highways. 

Although the State Council's order is not one they can ignore, many toll operators are awaiting final instructions from local authorities to which they report.

"Once we receive an official notice from the local transportation department, we will hold a meeting and discuss the procedures," an employee from the Sichuan Chengnan Expressway Company told the Global Times.

Some provincial governments, including Sichuan, Heibei and Jiangsu, have published their plans for making their roads toll-free during the holiday.

Some toll road company executives have expressed dismay about losing a peak week's worth of cash flow. "No one ever asked for our opinion on lifting the fees during the holiday. It is perfectly reasonable for a highway contractor to charge its customers," a highway company director from Fujian Province complained to the China Business News.

The unnamed director said his company, which is still waiting for a notice from the local government, has no choice but to implement the regulation.

"As a provincial body, we always carry out directives from the central government as required," an official from the Guangdong provincial transportation department told the Global Times. "There are still more than two weeks to implement the plan," added the official.

While many motorists are likely gearing up to hit the free highway during the holidays, news of the toll-free period was greeted with widespread skepticism by netizens when it was first announced in August.

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