Do toll road operators charge too much?

Update: September, 16/2016 - 10:00
A toll station on the Hà Nội-Hải Phòng Expressway built under a Build-Offer-Transfer (BOT) model. - VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hùng
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI - The fees being charged at toll stations in the mushrooming BOT transportation projects are inconsistent with the capacity of drivers to pay, Deputy Transport Minister Nguyễn Nhật said at a conference in Hà Nội yesterday.

The conference, held by State Audit of Việt Nam (SAV), focused on problems arising in Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects and the role of the State in their management.

Lê Quốc Đạt, deputy chief investigator of Ministry of Planning and Investment, said the boom in the number of BOT transport projects over the past years has helped develop transport infrastructure despite limited State budgets.

However, various levels of fees at different toll stations have raised public concerns, he said.

Many BOT projects were built on key roads so that drivers have no choice but to use them. This is a “forceful” way of asking residents to use the service, Đạt said.

Đạt also spoke of the density of toll stations, saying 32 of 88 are located less than 70 km from each - closer than the minimum distance regulated by the Transport Ministry.

Many toll booths collect fees based on the number of stations they travel rather than based on travelling distance. In fact, people living close to toll collection stations of BOT projects are the most vulnerable, Đạt said.

Ngô Văn Quý, SAV chief auditor, said that SAV and relevant ministries have supervised and assessed BOT projects’ investment and pointed out shortcomings.

There have yet to be specific criteria to select BOT investment projects. Shortcomings have reduced the investment efficiency of this kind of investment, he said.

The implementation of BOT projects is very important and urgent given limited budget resources, State Auditor General Hồ Đức Phớc said.

 “We need to have measures to select projects, manage and improve transparency and accountability to not only improve investment efficiency and harmonise benefits of investors, users and enterprises; but also to help attract capital to develop the national economy,” he said.

A representative of the Ministry of Planning and Investment called on the Transport Ministry and localities to study transport infrastructure networks and specify roads which need BOT investment.

Phạm Thị Vân Anh, a representative of the State Bank of Việt Nam, said the SAV should focus on choosing the right investors and contractors as well as calculating the total value of investment and fee collection management.

At the conference, the SAV announced plans to publicise audit results of BOT transport infrastructure projects at the beginning of next year.

BOT toll station purchase

In an effort to eradicate BOT toll stations that reportedly disturb residents, the People’s Committee of southern Bình Dương Province made a positive move to spend about VNĐ4-5 billion (US$177,800-222,200) to purchase a toll booth in Thuận An Township from Bình Dương Building Materials and Construction Company using the province’s own local budget and decided to completely remove it.

The provincial People’s Committee Chairman Trần Thanh Liêm said the decision was to expand roads, reduce traffic jam and create conditions for investment attraction.

Transport Deputy Minister Nguyễn Nhật praised the province’s move, but said the budget source must be clarified.

“The locality must consider other socio-economic tasks that need more investment priority,” he told the Vietnam News Agency.

In fact, there are other important tasks that need priority such as poverty reduction and eradication, agriculture and rural areas development, and waste treatment. If these problems have not been solved, it is unacceptable to allocate such a massive amount of money to remove a BOT project, he said. - VNS