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收费公路改革(shōufèi gōnglù gǎige):Reform of toll roads

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-28 08:51

The National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planner, asked the Ministry of Transport on Monday to reform the standards for toll roads by the end of 2017. This move is to make up the long-term deficits of China's toll road system.

According to the ministry, the nationwide deficit last year was 318.73 billion yuan ($48 billion), 161.62 billion yuan more than that in 2014. The overall debt scale of toll roads in 2015 increased 15.7 percent year-on-year. And the ministry has largely kept people in the dark on how it spends the toll revenues.

Many worry the toll rates will rise in this round of reform, and analysts say it is almost impossible for the authorities to abolish the existing toll policies. In fact, the authorities may change the current 30-year ceiling for toll collection to allow many debt-ridden operators to continue collecting toll even after 30 years, while lowering the toll standards.

A senior official of the ministry had said at a news conference in July that their research shows it is reasonable to replace the 30-year ceiling for road tolls with a simple policy: "Users must pay for the road".

Experts say the ministry should make the expenditure of toll revenues transparent, and local governments should curb their impulse to build toll roads, and divert more money to build roads that are free to use.

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