Disgruntled drivers force ministry to cut toll fees in southern Vietnam

By Phuoc Tuan   October 9, 2017 | 02:30 am PT
Disgruntled drivers force ministry to cut toll fees in southern Vietnam
Toll fees at a station on National Highway 1 are set to be cut by next month under pressure from drivers. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
The drivers have sought to disrupt operations over the past month at a toll station that they say is in the wrong place.

The Ministry of Transport has agreed to lower toll fees on a major road running through Bien Hoa Town in Dong Nai Province by 20 percent from next month, apparently bowing to pressure from drivers who have left to stone unturned to vent their indignation.

The decision was made following a proposal by local authorities.

The station was built to recoup an investment of VND1.5 trillion ($66 million) spent in 2014 to upgrade a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) section of National Highway 1 and build a 12-kilometer bypass running around Bien Hoa, around 35 kilometers to the northeast of Saigon.

Sitting before the junction of the bypass and the highway, it is scheduled to be in place for the next 10 years charging VND35,000-180,000 per vehicle.

But drivers say the location of the station is unreasonable because many of them don't use the bypass and have to pay twice for using the same stretch of highway.

To make themselves heard, drivers have been trying different tricks over the last month to disrupt operations at the toll station. They've ranged from using VND200 ($0.01) and VND500 notes (the smallest denomination in the country) to pay the toll fee, to driving slowly in a horizontal line into each lane of the toll station, creating a massive tailback behind them, or simply just parking up in front of the station to block access.

Last Thursday, the situation descended into chaos and police were called in to clear up the mess. Locals said the congestion that day was the heaviest it had been in a month.

The situation has been causing a headache for everyone involved, from the staff who have to spend more time counting the toll fees and local residents who have to sit in the gridlock, to passengers who are left stranded in the tailbacks and the drivers themselves, forcing Dong Nai authorities to step in and ask the ministry to cut the toll fee.

In August, drivers also tried to disrupt operations at a station on National Highway 1 in the southern province of Tien Giang by paying with stacks of low denomination notes.

Tien Giang authorities said they would propose cuts to the toll fee while the transport ministry would 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 last year. The standard distance set by the government is 70 kilometers.

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