Toll booth operators struggle as traffic slumps

By Doan Loan   April 9, 2020 | 05:53 pm PT
Toll booth operators struggle as traffic slumps
Vehicles on the Hanoi - Hai Phong Expressway. Photo by VnExpress.
Toll booth operators are reporting plummeting revenues amid the coronavirus pandemic that could slow plans to recoup investment on roads.

The Phap Van – Cau Gie Expressway in Hanoi has seen traffic drop 70 percent from before the outbreak to 20,000 vehicles a day.

Falling traffic numbers along the expressway, which runs from Hoang Mai District southward, has been steeper in recent days as the government imposed a social distancing campaign starting April 1.

Pham Van Khoa, CEO of BOT Phap Van – Cau Gie Jsc, said this has resulted in its revenue falling by half from March and the company would have to extend its tolling time to recover its VND6.7 trillion ($284 million) expressway investment.

Another expressway connecting Hanoi with northern Bac Giang Province recorded revenue of VND1.1 billion ($46,600) a day in the last two months, 35 percent lower than target.

The figure dropped to VND710 million ($30,100) this month, according to BOT Hanoi – Bac Giang Investment Jsc.

National Highway 5 that connects Hanoi with Hai Phong City, and Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway, saw traffic down 40-50 percent starting April 1, as buses have been banned and personal vehicles are few.

Vietnam Expressway Corporation (VEC), which operates the nation’s expressways, estimates a loss of VND140 billion ($6 million) this year as revenue from tolls fall.

Most operators are in a dilemma as they are not allowed to increase toll fees according to build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts, while lowering tolls will only result in longer periods spent recoup investments.

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