Guangdong toll system 'needed to repay loans'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am

Guangdong has rejected calls to abolish its contentious toll collection system, saying it does not have the money to repay 176 billion yuan in highway construction loans accrued by the end of last year.

In response to questions by Guangdong Political People's Consultative Conference delegate Guo Qinghong , transport authorities said a third (144) of the province's toll booths had been scrapped in the past three years, but it could not afford to totally abolish tolls.

Mr Guo said that while he could accept the Transport Department's explanation of the government's financial status, he was disappointed it had not provided a timetable for dismantling toll booths.

'I am not satisfied with their answer because my concern is to improve traffic flow. There are five or six toll gates in Guangzhou and they are already closed, but they did not bother to dismantle them and that slows down traffic,' he said.

'I can accept that the technology is not available to make road users pay for construction costs in another way or that they have financial problems, but they didn't give me a timetable. They can drag this on indefinitely.'

Toll collection is a contentious issue because the system causes traffic congestion and drivers believe some road builders and operators are allowed to continue collecting fees long after their investment has been recouped.

Urban construction expert Lai Shouhua said more toll booths could be dismantled but local interests were keeping them in operation.

'Local authorities do not want to lose their revenue so they come out with ways to justify collecting tolls,' he said. 'We have to set up a supervisory system.'