Fee collection to resume at controversial Vietnam tollgate

By Hoang Nam   March 17, 2019 | 02:38 am PT
Fee collection to resume at controversial Vietnam tollgate
Drivers argue with a staff at the Cai Lay toll station in southern Vietnam on December 2, 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
The Cai Lay toll station in southern Vietnam will reopen later this month, more than a year after it closed following protests.

The toll gate in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang will resume fee collection on March 25, it was decided at a meeting attended by Nguyen Nhat, deputy minister of transport, the tollgate investor and the provincial authorities.

The fee will be lowered by 63 percent, from VND35,000 ($1.51) to VND15,000 for cars under 12 seats and trucks under two tons. Toll fees for other auto types will also reduce by the same ratio.

The time for fee collection, however, will be lengthened from seven years to15 years and nine months.

Luu Van Hao, deputy chair of National Highway No.1 Tien Giang Investment Co., Ltd, the investor, said the toll gate now has eight lanes for collecting fees, two of them automatic.

By October this year, all ten booths will be automatic, he said.

Tran Van Bon, director of Tien Giang’s transport department, said the department received more than 500 petitions from locals, asking for their vehicles to be exempted from the toll but only 350 have been approved.

Deputy minister Nhat said that residents within a radius of 10km around the toll gate will be exempted from toll fee, up from the previous 4km radius.

Built under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, the Cai Lay toll booth first opened on August 1, 2017.

The project to re-asphalt 26.5km of the highway and build a new 12km bypass road around a local town is estimated to have cost VND1 trillion (over $43 million).

However, angry drivers protested the station’s location, saying it should have been along the new bypass instead.

They argued that with the current location, anyone using the highway but not the bypass would also have to pay toll fees.

In protest, they used VND200 ($0.01) and VND500 notes, the smallest denominations in the country, to pay the toll fee, forcing staff to spend a lot of time counting their payments.

With all the lanes blocked as the money was counted, traffic was usually jammed for hours. At times, the toll station had to close several times per day to allow all the vehicles through before things returned to chaos.

The station was then closed for three months.

It reopened in late November,2017, only to see drivers promptly use stacks of small change to resume their protests.

Locals were not happy with the toll station either, saying they had to pay the fee only to travel around in their neighborhood.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in December 2017 instructed Tien Giang to suspend the Cai Lay toll station. He called an emergency meeting where it was decided that no toll would be collected at the station until the government took a final decision.

There are toll stations every 62 km 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 km.

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