BOT roads shorten travel time and cut other associated costs, and their toll fees are not arbitrarily fixed by investors, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang tells Thoi bao Kinh te (Economic Times).
Quite a few toll booths on build-operate-transfer (BOT) expressways have left frequent travellers feeling they are being robbed. How would you respond to this complaint?
The main purpose of toll fees in BOT projects is to recover the money invested in constructing and maintaining the road. Meanwhile, the fee levied on each means of transport running on the road, or the Road Maintenance Fund, as we call it in Viet Nam, meets such expenses in projects invested in the State budget. So I should say there is no overlap in fee collection between BOT roads and special-use roads as far as using the tax payers' money is concerned.
It cannot be denied that we cannot have modern expressways if we just sit and wait for funding from the State budget. The BOT model has been practised worldwide in infrastructure construction, including the USA, EU and Singapore.
When they drive on fast and smooth BOT roads, everyone is happy. But not everyone is happy about paying the toll fees.
There is also no question that BOT roads are helping save a lot of travelling time, and making drives safer. For example, if we travel on the Noi Bai – Lao Cai or Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh – Dau Giay expressways, we can cut the travelling time by half. In other words, we can save up to 30 per cent of associated costs. On the National Road No.1 from Ha Noi to Vinh city, we can save up to 30 per cent of the travelling time or equal to 20 per cent of the associated cost.
People are not complaining about the convenience of BOT roads, but the high toll fees. For instance, they say the fees increase their production costs.
I don't think the toll fees have become a burden for enterprises in their production process. Let me give an example from the recently inaugurated Co Chien Bridge connecting Ben Tre Province with Tra Vinh Province. The bridge has shortened by 70km the distance from Tra Vinh to Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks to the good road, drivers can save quite a lot of petrol and slash depreciation costs, maintenance costs and ferry ticket costs. And a very important factor – time. We all agree time is money.
I sincerely wish people adopt a more comprehensive and objective evaluation of toll fees.
However, I do have to apologize for our poor communication in failing to raise people's awareness about the benefits of having good BOT roads.
What should be done to convince road users about these benefits?
I think the best way to convince the road users is high service quality. As I have mentioned above, BOT roads are all modern and they cost investors huge sums of money. So if riders want to travel on good roads, they have to pay for what they want to have.
However, the investors are not free to impose the toll fees they want. Their proposals must be approved by the government. This is clearly written in the project documents.
Under the Viet Nam Law on Road Traffic, the distance between each toll station on the same route must be at least 70km. And the toll for each type of BOT road has to be approved by the Ministry of Finance. It is not the will of the investors that decides these things. — VNS