By Joy Lee ,The China Post

Freeways running from east to west will be free of charge for two to three years after the new freeway toll system takes effect later this year, Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) head Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday.

Instead of paying when passing through toll booths, under the new system drivers will be charged according to the distance they drive on freeways. The new rules are expected to be implemented in August or September. “The ministry has planned to offer a free 20-kilometer distance for every car per day,” Yeh said, “but all the details are still under discussion.”

Yeh also said that after the new charging system is launched, all freeways running west to east will be free of charge for two to three years. The MOTC will review actual freeway use data to decide if adjustments are needed.

“The MOTC will report to the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee (交通委員會) in the end of March or in the beginning of April regarding the issues of fees for north-south freeways,” Yeh said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that even though the west-east freeways will at first be free of charge, the ultimate rate for each kilometer proposed by the MOTC is too high.

“If the MOTC’s income from freeway fees exceeds the standard of NT$22 billion formulated by the National Freeway Bureau (NFB), the ministry should lower the rate,” Lee said.

Yeh promised that the rate would be lowered if freeway use income surpasses the level estimated by the MOTC.

Permanent Free Horizontal Freeway: DPP Other opposition lawmakers, however, demanded that free west-east freeway use become a permanent policy.

“For people living in the central and southern parts of Taiwan,” DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said, “there are no substitute roads for west-to-east freeways. Therefore, these freeways should be free permanently.”

Fellow DPP lawmaker Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) also said that there are no gas stations or service and rest areas along the west-east freeways. The MOTC should not charge people for driving on roads with low quality of service, Wei said. Yeh said that the MOTC will study the legislators’ requests.

Yeh Says Sorry for Wugu-Yangmei Delay Yeh apologized to the public yesterday for the fourth delay to the opening of the Zhongli section of the Wugu-Yangmei overpass at a Legislative Yuan sitting.

He said that he has decided not to set a date for the opening of the section because he does not want the contractor to rush the work and risk shoddy workmanship.

National Expressway Engineering Bureau Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said that a test for carrying capacity and a strict inspection will be conducted in mid-March to ensure the section is safe to open to traffic.

The opening of the Zhongli section of Wugu-Yangmei overpass has been postponed four times for various reasons such as weather, staff shortages and repair issues. It was originally scheduled to be opened to traffic before Chinese New Year.