Toll station trouble prompts operator to request police probe in northern Vietnam

By Doan Loan   September 7, 2017 | 10:48 am GMT+7
Drivers are paying with stacks of small change to cause traffic to back up in protest of high fees and a dangerous road.

The company that operates two toll stations on National Highway 5 in northern Vietnam has asked for a police investigation into alleged public disturbances at one of its stations.

In a request submitted on Wednesday, the Vietnam Infrastructure Development and Finance Investment JSC (Vidifi) claimed drivers had been deliberately jamming up one of its toll stations in Hung Yen Province.

The company has asked police in provinces along National Highway 5, which connects Hanoi and Hai Phong, to investigate and help prevent these disturbances from happening again.

A video showing drivers paying with stacks of small change at one of Vidifi's toll stations first appeared on social media on August 27, according to the company.

About 30 drivers, 15 of them from a company in Hai Duong Province, then repeated the trick on Monday afternoon. They used VND500 (2 U.S. cents) notes, the smallest currency in common use, to pay the fees on the way back.

Not content with the disruption they had caused, they turned around to go through the station again armed with more change, before parking horizontally across the road in protest.

The incident was repeated again on Tuesday afternoon with drivers driving slowly and paying with small change to cause traffic to back up.

Speaking with VnExpress, one driver said the toll fees are too high and the road is in a terrible state with many ruts.

“We want the station's managers to reduce the fees,” he said. “Or even better, remove the toll station.”

However, a representative from Vidifi claimed the company is collecting the tolls in accordance with regulations, and has no plan to lower the fees.

Vidifi is the main investor in the Hanoi-Hai Phong Highway project, an alternative to National Highway 5. The company has been allowed to operate toll stations on National Highway 5 since 2009 to help recover the money spent on the new project. Its two toll stations, which are scheduled to be in place for 28 years and 9 months, currently collect fees of VND40,000-180,000 ($1.8-7.9).

Earlier this month, disgruntled drivers also protested against a toll station on National Highway 1 in the southern province of Tien Giang by paying with stacks of small change. The station was opened to recover the money spent to resurface a section of the highway in Tien Giang and to build a new 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 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.

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