Disgruntled drivers force new toll station to close on Vietnam highway

By Hoang Nam   August 14, 2017 | 10:41 am GMT+7
Disgruntled drivers force new toll station to close on Vietnam highway
A driver uses VND200 notes to pay toll fees of up to VND180,000 a pass at a station on National Highway 1 on Sunday. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Staff abandoned the station after more than 50 drivers tried to pay using stacks of small change, causing a massive tailback.

A new toll station in the Mekong Delta was reopened early on Monday morning after staff abandoned it the previous evening when a protest held by drivers angry with the new fees escalated.

Drivers have been trying to disrupt operations at the station on National Highway 1 in Tien Giang Province by paying with stacks of low denomination notes since it opened at the beginning of this month.

The problem reached boiling point on Sunday when more than 50 drivers tried to pay the toll using VND200 and VND500 notes, the smallest denomination in the country which are no longer common in use, forcing staff to spend extra time counting them.

The delay led to a four-kilometer (2.5 miles) tailback.

Extra staff were called in and the station appealed for help from traffic police, but as the disaffected drivers kept honking and demanding to go through free of charge, the station was eventually abandoned at around 5 p.m.

Staff returned about half an hour later, but were unable to keep the station running and were forced to leave again shortly after.

The station reopened at 2 a.m. on Monday.

The new toll station is scheduled to be in place for six and half years, collecting fees of VND35,000-180,000 ($1.54-8). It was opened to recover the $57 million spent in 2014 to resurface nearly 30 kilometers of the highway in Tien Giang and to build a 12-kilometer bypass around a local town.

Drivers argue that the station should have been set up on the new bypass, not the highway, because they already have had to pay multiple tolls to use the highway anyway.

Tien Giang authorities said they would propose a cut to the toll fee, while the transport ministry will decide if the station should be moved.

There are toll stations every 62 kilometers along the highway, according to a report released at a meeting of the legislative National Assembly in July last year. The standard distance set by the government is 70 kilometers.