Vehicle fees unlikely to curb congestion

A Ministry of Transport's proposal to levy yearly traffic fees on personal vehicles and cars that enter the hub of big cities during peak hours has raised public concern. Viet Nam News reporters Hong Minh and Khanh Linh spoke to relevant officials and people about the issue.

Dinh La Thang, Minister of Transport

 

Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang
People should be clear that the fee proposal for personal vehicles and another fee for cars entering city centres during peak hours is not a Ministry of Transport (MoT) initiative. The initiative actually follows instructions set forth in the recent National Assembly resolution, which agreed on the Government's previously submitted report on measures to curb and reduce traffic accidents and congestion in big cities. So the MoT has built the proposal in line with the National Assembly resolution and Government instructions. Recently, many local newspapers have had one-sided reporting on the proposal, saying it is an MoT initiative to cause difficulties. They have also had a series of objections on the proposal.

In the past, the Party and the State have focused on investing in infrastructure construction. However, transport infrastructure has yet to meet the demands of socio-economic development or security and national defence activities. As a result, the Party and the State have assigned the MoT to develop measures to solve the problems by building legal frameworks and policies.

The proposal aims at three targets: (1) increase investment sources for transport infrastructure, (2) implement measures to curb and reduce traffic accidents, and (3) create a foundation for the implementation of measures to limit traffic congestion in big cities, especially Ha Noi and HCM City.

It also helps ensure social equality. Why social equality here? When you use transport infrastructure, you have to pay for it. Those who drive motorbikes and cars need to pay more than those who use public vehicles. And those who walk or use bicycles do not have to pay. That's totally fair.

According to our statistics, there are more than 700,000 cars. A VND20 million ($970) annual fee for a car with a cylinder capacity under 2,000cu.cm, which is normally a small car, is reasonable. Cars with higher capacity will be charged more since they release more emissions and take up more space on the roads.

There are some 34 million motorbikes across the country. We proposed a yearly fee of VND500,000 ($24) on those with a cylinder capacity under 175cu.cm. That means less than VND50,000 ($2.4) a month on average. Some asked why collect for motorbikes. If motorbike drivers are not charged, it will not be fair to those who don't use them.

As for the fee on cars entering city centres during rush hours, we will assign people's committees to decide on how much to charge and what time to charge. They will also take responsibility for building automatic fee collection stations. When making the proposal, we looked at experiences in other countries which have applied congestion pricing in cities including Singapore, the UK, the US and Sweden.

People should note that these fees are separate from the road maintenance fund, which is collected from gasoline sales. The road maintenance fund only meets 70 to 75 per cent of the requirement for road upgrades. The State budget is still burdened with the remainder. The quality of transport infrastructure has been degraded due to weak management, poor maintenance and lack of capital. When collected, the new fees will contribute to the State budget. The transport sector and other relevant sectors must improve their management quality to avoid losses, waste and eliminate corruption in transport construction.

My family members also use cars and motorbikes. We will pay the fees since it is for social equality and common interest.

Thai Van Chung, General Secretary of the HCM City Cargo Transportation Association

 

Thai Van Chung
The proposal, in my point of view, is not feasible and would be ineffective in reducing traffic congestion and the use of personal vehicles in big cities.

If the authority wants to reduce the increasing number of vehicles in big cities, public transport should be able to satisfy people's travel demands. Motorbikes are currently the primary vehicle for most people living and working in big cities, and this is one of the causes of serious traffic chaos and disorder, especially during rush hours when many motorbike riders forget the traffic rules and run into other vehicles' lanes. However, public transport remains inadequate, restricted and not good enough to replace personal vehicles. Logically, people, whether they are rich or poor, would accept the idea of paying fees to continue using their own vehicles. I myself would prefer paying to get around by my motorbike. So the collection of fees actually does nothing to curb the use of personal vehicles and reduce traffic jams but causes burden for people who already suffer from high living costs.

Consumers will be the hardest hit if the proposal is approved. As far as I know, there are about 700 transport enterprises in HCM City. Each owns several dozen trucks. With a VND50 million fee per truck, an enterprise with 10 trucks would have to pay half a billion annually. Surely enterprises would be forced to raise their transport price to offset the cost. This would cause a domino effect on other businesses to increase their production price and eventually hit consumers.

Collecting fees from truck drivers who enter the central city has been implemented successfully in many countries, but it could bring about some unexpected consequences if applied in Viet Nam. For example, truck drivers who enter the city between 6 and 8am and between 4 and 7pm would be required to pay fees, but they might go earlier or later to avoid paying fees, which might cause traffic chaos in the outer city. This model also requires the installation of tolls around the inner city. This will cost a lot as there are many routes to go in and out of the inner city. The number of cars and trucks operating in the inner city is much more than those travelling in and out of the city. Thus, the purpose of reducing cars in the inner city can hardly be achieved.

In my opinion, the ministry should find more stable and long-term solutions to deal with urban traffic congestion such as replanning urban networks, limiting high-rise office buildings in the city, investing more in infrastructure development in suburban areas to stretch the population density, improving public transport services, and raising awareness about traffic rules.

The ministry should also raise the registration fees, road maintenance fees or vehicle import tariffs to boost the traffic infrastructure development fund. That would be more persuasive and legal.

Nguyen Chi Hong Quan, truck driver in Ha Noi's Kham Thien Street

 

Nguyen Chi Hong Quan
I can't believe it! I'm going to pay VND20 million (US$960) per year, about one third of my salary, to operate my truck legally! I had to take out a VND200 million ($9600) loan to buy this truck and I still haven't paid it all back. I and other people have already incurred many fees with the cost of living on the rise, and now one more big fee will come to burden us. Worse, it is quite high compared to the income of those who earn about several million per month.

The fee might help increase the State budget's revenue for infrastructure improvement, just like some officials said, but I'm not sure if the proposal would succeed in reducing the number of personal vehicles like it is supposed to. I myself would rather pay VND20 million for my truck and maybe another VND500,000 for my motorbike to get around. I just don't want to be crammed in the middle of overcrowded buses or spend all of my salary on crazily expensive taxis.

I might increase my transport price to partly make up for the fees, and I think other transport enterprises, including taxi companies, would do the same thing. Anyway, we can't earn a living without vehicles, and consumers will suffer the most from it. — VNS

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