Tolls must be transparent

Updated: 2012-10-09 13:23

(China Daily)

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Nothing can be done in a convincing manner unless it is done in the right name

This quote by Confucius should apply to the country's highway tolls.

The Yellow River Highway Bridge in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province, stopped collecting tolls on Monday. It had been collecting tolls to pay back the loans required for its construction since 1986. Yet the loans had already been paid off by 1996, according to an audit by the National Audit Office in 2008, by which time 1.45 billion yuan ($230 million) had already been collected in the 1997-2008 period.

There is no question that collecting tolls to pay back loans taken out for the construction of the road is acceptable. But the questions left unanswered are where and how the money collected over the past 16 years has been used.

And the same questions can be asked about many other highways and expressways that have been collecting tolls, without ever making their accounts transparent.

The reality is that some expressways and highways are still collecting tolls long after the debt was cleared without letting the public know where and how the money collected has been used.

Those who have paid the Yellow River bridge toll over the past 16 years have been treated unfairly, as have all those who have been paying tolls levied to collect money in the wrong name.

Given the increasing number of motor vehicles and volume of freight transport on the nation's highways and expressways, tolls may need to be collected in order to reduce the volume of traffic and to pay for their upkeep. For instance, it is predicted that the volume of traffic will increase by 20 percent on the Yellow River Highway Bridge now it is toll free.

The public does not harbor grievances against road tolls because of the inconvenience and cost but because they feel that they are being ripped off, as they are being asked to pay for loans that have long since been repaid.

Tolls must be collected in the right name and the use of the money collected must be made public.