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National freeway to launch e-toll system
The National Sun Yat-sen Freeway is a month away to launching its first electronic toll-collecting system, but six million commuters, potential users of the new system, are not happy because the Far Eastern Toll Collecting Company has no intention of lowering the retail price of its electronic sensors. (Taiwan News)

The Ministry of Transportation & Communications said a public hearing will be held to discuss the issue. MOTC chief Lin Ling-san said on Monday that professionals and scholars will be invited to a hearing to determine whether the on-board card reader unit (and its additional costs) were really worth NT$2,249.

"I believe that the manufacturers will eventually take public opinion into consideration if they really want to do business," Lin said. He added that when the e-toll system operates on a full scale in 2010, those who do not have an OBU installed on their vehicles will still be able to access the freeway without paying extra charges.

Both parties (FETCC and the MOTC) have been trying to work out a compromise since October, said Chen Chien-yu, director of the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau.

However, FETCC requested that a service fee be charged in the original "build-operate-and-transfer" contract, and it was something that needed more negotiating, Chen added.

According to the Consumers Foundation Chinese Taipei, each user of the e-toll system would have to buy an on-board card reader unit for NT$1,300, and have it installed at a designated shop for NT$199. The card reader also needs a non-rechargeable 9V alkaline battery, which retails for NT$50.

In addition, the distributors of the integrated circuit credit card for the system are charging a minimum of NT$200 to purchase the card and requiring users add at least NT$500 credit to the card which brings the total cost up to NT$2,249.

The CFCT has asked FETCC why its system is so expensive when compared with the OBU used in the United States -- the E-ZPass. That system uses a Velcro-attachable sensor that automatically deducts money from the user's designated credit card account and needs no battery.

FETCC replied that the National Freeway Bureau planned to issue the IC credit card as an embeddable personal verification device for a potential nationwide intellectual tracking system, and therefore it is completely different from the E-ZPass system and cannot be compared to it.

The expensive price tag and the trouble that users face when installing the system has caused legislators to question the MOTC at every session.

Meanwhile, Chen also denied a rumored strike by laid-off employees of the current toll-collecting booths on January 1, the day that the e-toll system is scheduled to launch.

Chen said that all of the 1,100 toll collectors were offered severance pay, and that only a few employees argued that they should to be given more severance benefits. Chen said all the workers will receive five months' severance pay.

Because these people are hired on an annual contract, they are not compensated under the Labor Standards Law regulations, he said.

Source: Taiwan News

Toll way, freeway
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