China to step up crackdown on illegal toll collection

Local authorities in China have moved to take down unauthorized tollbooths amid a one-year national campaign in response to broad public complaint.

The provincial government of southern Guangdong vowed to remove illegal tollbooths by the end of May 2012, Tong Xing, deputy provincial governor, said at a meeting on Monday, China News Service reported Tuesday.

By the end of last year, 234 tollbooths, or nearly half of the total in Guangdong, were shut down, he said.

Guangdong, China’s richest province, is the birthplace of the nation’s toll road. In the 1980s, the cash-strapped province turned to tolls for capital to build roads in the province, where infrastructure was underdeveloped.

The toll-road system was innovative 30 years ago, but it needs to be reformed now, said Wang Yang, chief of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, at an online chat with netizens on Monday.

Starting July 1, the Beijing transport authority lowered tolls for drivers heading toward the capital airport and canceled them completely for those heading back downtown.

China launched a year-long national campaign targeting illegal highway tollbooths at the end of June.

According to a report issued by the National Audit Office on toll roads in 18 provinces, a total of 14.9 billion yuan (2.3 billion U.S. dollars) in toll charges were illegally collected by the end of 2005.

Xinhua

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