A new toll station connected to a BOT project in southern Vietnam has recently come under fire because of what drivers are calling its unreasonable rates.
Local drivers and transport businesses have increasingly expressed their disapproval of the Cai Lay toll station, which is on the section of National Highway 1 in Cai Lay Town, in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang.
Drivers are charged between VND35,000 (US$1.54) and VND180,000 ($7.92) depending on their vehicles.
The toll station belongs to a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project upgrading the section of highway and building a detour across Cai Lay Town, and cost a total of VND1.3 trillion ($57.2 million).
BOT is a project-financing framework in which the developer receives a concession from the private or public sector to finance, design, construct and operate a facility for a certain period, during which it has to raise the finances for, and is entitled to retain all revenues generated by, the project.
The facility is then transferred to the public administration at the end of the concession agreement.
Many drivers consider the current toll exorbitant, while the location of the station is also said to be unreasonable.
They assert that the station should be placed on the new detour instead of on the existing highway.
Their objection began on social media in mid-July, a few weeks before the official opening of the road project in August.
The situation got out of control on Sunday evening when hundreds of drivers did the same thing, causing serious congestion in the area.
Many commuters have expressed their disagreement by paying the toll in small change, making it more difficult for attendants to count the money as well as causing traffic delays at the station.
The toll station was forced to shut down until 2:00 am on Monday.
A large number of commuters have avoided the facility by traveling on smaller local streets, placing enormous pressure on the capacity of such infrastructure.
According to Nguyen Phu Hiep, director of the National Highway No.1 Tien Giang Investment Company, developer of the road project in Cai Lay, the work included two main parts.
The first part included the building of a 12-kilometer detour with an investment recorded at VND1 trillion ($44 million), while the second part involved the renovation of a 26.5 kilometer section of National Highway 1, costing another VND300 billion ($13.2 million).
The toll includes traveing on both routes, he continued, adding that the location had been approved by the Ministry of Transport and the Tien Giang People’s Committee.
Regarding the issue, a meeting was convened between Nguyen Manh Thang, deputy head of the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam under the Ministry of Transport, and the Tien Giang transport department on Monday.
“The developer has the right to collect a toll as their benefit in the BOT project. However, they should also take into consideration the rights of citizens,” Thang remarked.
Some drivers said that the toll was unreasonable given that they had already paid road maintenance fees for the highway, the official explained, adding that the amount is not enough for the implementation of the project, thus a BOT contract was necessary.
“We have reviewed all feedback and are discussing with provincial authorities the best solution, which is expected to be concluded in September,” Thang said.
Speaking at the gathering, Tran Van Bon, director of the Tien Giang Department of Transport, proposed an adjustment to the toll rates.
Traffic police units will also take part in a solution to ensure safety and order at the toll station, Bon added.