Toll slip-up proves costly

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 1997, 12:00am

I have a toll tag - an electronic device issued by the Autopass Company - attached to the windscreen of my car. This enables me to conveniently traverse various tunnels in Hong Kong and the toll is debited directly on my bank account. Until recently, I had found this a very convenient alternative to paying the toll with coins at the toll booths.

I thought this device allowed me to go through any lane at which there was a large yellow auto toll sign - not so.

When I went through the auto toll lane at the Tate's Cairn tunnel recently, the light signal did not turn green and an alarm sounded. A security guard at the collection booths explained that my toll tag was the wrong one and could not be used for that tunnel.

I had theoretically not paid my toll and had breached the tunnel company's rules. I said I would pay the toll and was directed to the company office, only to have my offer to pay the $8 toll rejected unless I paid an additional $40 'administration fee'. When I objected to this I was told I could instead await a $48 claim in the mail.

My complaint is that the yellow auto toll signs are the same for all tunnels and hence it is easy for motorists with Autopass toll tags to mistakenly go through the auto toll lane at Tate's Cairn. In the space of two minutes, the alarm rang at least 10 times.

It may be appropriate to levy a fee if the tunnel company is involved in administration work related to identifying vehicle owners who breach the rules and the collection of money. It is inappropriate to levy this fee if a motorist, realising his error, immediately offers to pay before any 'administration work' is undertaken.

If this fee is anything other than a revenue-raising exercise, I fail to see why my offer to pay the $8 toll was rejected.

Ideally, all toll tunnels should use the same, or at least a compatible, auto toll system. I hope the tunnel company reviews its policies on the levying of the administration fee.

And the Transport Department may wish to redesign its auto toll signs to avoid the confusion when there is more than one type of toll tag in use.