Angry drivers jam up highway toll station by paying with bottles of change in Vietnam

By Hoang Nam   August 6, 2017 | 08:20 pm PT
Drivers say they already pay multiple tolls along the highway, and the new station has been set up in the wrong place.

Drivers in southern Vietnam have come up with a sneaky way of protesting a new toll they are being charged along National Highway 1 for a new bypass that many don't even use.

Instead of paying the fee as normal, they have been rolling up VND500 notes, the smallest currency nomination in common use, and stuffing them into plastic bottles before handing them over to toll station staff.

It takes up to 20 minutes for staff to cut open the bottles, flatten the notes and count them. The payment process usually takes 20 seconds.

"Bottle payments" started shortly after the new toll station was opened in Tien Giang Province on August 1 along National Highway 1, which connects Ho Chi Minh City with the Mekong Delta.

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

It took staff four hours to process 10 bottles of change on Sunday afternoon.

Tran Thanh Duc, one of the drivers, said he already paid a toll for maintaining the highway, so it’s "unreasonable" to ask him to pay more for a new bypass he doesn't even use.

A project was started in 2014 to resurface nearly 30 kilometers of the highway in Tien Giang and build a 12-kilometer bypass around a local town.

Nguyen Phu Hiep, director of the company investing in the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) project, said it cost more than VND1.3 trillion (more than $57 million) to build.

Hiep said he has asked police to help with the situation.

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).

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.

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