Vietnam bans cars from stopping at BOT tollgates for more than 5 mins following protests

By Doan Loan   January 16, 2018 | 09:12 pm PT
Vietnam bans cars from stopping at BOT tollgates for more than 5 mins following protests
Drivers protested at BOT Cai Lay toll station in Tien Giang province last year. Protests at BOT toll stations have lingered for more than a year, as no solutions offered have satisfied both investors and drivers. Photo by Vnexpress/Quynh Tran
Paying in small notes is not illegal, but protesting drivers will have to make way for other road users from now on. 

Transport authorities in Vietnam have ordered the operators of toll stations at BOT road projects to put up signs prohibiting vehicles from stopping at the stations for more than five minutes.

The move comes in the wake of a series of protests at toll stations around the country that have led to serious traffic congestion.

This solution aims to avoid traffic jams during the Tet holiday, and might be applied at toll stations across the country in the future, said Nguyen Van Huyen, director general of the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam. 

"If drivers purposely plan to pay in small notes and take more than five minutes, they will be ordered to move to the side to complete their payments and allow other drivers through," added Huyen. The signs will also act as reminders that drivers should not disrupt services at the stations. 

Paying toll fees in small notes is not illegal, but drivers should prepare the notes in advance. If the payment process lasts more than five minutes, local authorities will have to intervene. 

There are currently 88 BOT (build - operate - transfer) stations across Vietnam. Most, 73, are under the management of the Ministry of Transport and 17 of them are inactive. The 15 other stations are managed by local districts. 

Protests at BOT toll stations have been lingering for almost a year, with the latest hotspots being Soc Trang, Can Tho, Binh Thuan and other parts of southern Vietnam. 

Drivers have cited three main reasons for their protests: unreasonably high fees, the locations of the stations and too many stations on the highway.

According to the National Assembly report, Vietnam's standard distance for toll stations is 70km (43 miles), but on average, there are stations every 62km (38.5 miles). On National Highway 1 alone, there are more than 40 toll stations. 

Last year, protests in Cai Lay District, Tien Giang Province grabbed national headlines after days of traffic chaos that forced Vietnam's prime minister to step in and temporarily close the station while its legitimacy is being reexamined.

Protests later spread to other parts of southern Vietnam.

Drivers have come up with various ways to protest the fees, from paying in small notes to blocking the roads, most of which have resulted in major tailbacks.

Video by VnExpress/Bao Yen

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