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News

New campaign to reform tollway system

22 June 2011
The Chinese government has responded to widespread criticism of the nation’s tollway system by starting a campaign to remove unauthorised tollbooths and close those that collect fees after the authorised period has expired.

Five government departments are behind the year-long campaign, which also includes a plan to lower unreasonably high toll levels in some areas. They include the Ministry of Transport, which is in charge of road transport, the National Development and Reform Commission, which controls pricing, and the Ministry of Finance, which is in charge of funds. The Ministry of Supervision and the State Council office for rectifying malpractices are the other bodies involved.

Over the next year, local governments will suspend listing toll roads for funding and suspend overseas companies buying assets of state-owned toll roads.

According to the plan, the five government bodies will carry out investigations from now until the end of August. Over the following four months, local governments will be given time to introduce reforms themselves.
In 2012 the government departments will send teams to check the results and make sure the campaign is not carried out “superficially”, said Minister of Transport Li Shenglin.

Since 1994 there have been a number of attempts to clean up the country’s tollway system. However, they have all failed because the money raised by road tolls are such an important source of revenue for local governments, according to Liu Kaixiang, a law professor at Peking University quoted by China Daily.

A report by Nanfang Weekly revealed that many board members at the 19 listed expressway companies are government officials from local transport departments. This means that local transport departments benefit directly from collecting tolls, and they also decide on toll levels and the period of time that an expressway company can collect them.

This fact has made many experts pessimistic about the likely effectiveness of the current campaign, concluded China Daily.

     
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