|Drivers oppose high fees and the toll station’s inappropriate location at the Cai Lậy Build-Operation-Transfer toll station, causing traffic jams for nearly an hour on Thursday, the first working day after three months of being temporarily suspended from operation. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Trí
TIỀN GIANG — Cai Lậy Build-Operation-Transfer (BOT) toll station was forced to open its gates Thursday night as drivers used small currency notes to buy tickets, as a protest against the high fees.
To pay the VNĐ25,000 fee, several drivers used a VNĐ20,000 note, nine VNĐ500 notes, three VNĐ200 notes and insisted the BOT fee collectors provide them exact change of VNĐ100 ($0.0044), which is rarely used in daily transactions. They also shouted, recorded videos and took photos of BOT staff.
At 1.45am on Friday, a traffic jam occurred on four lanes of Cai Lậy BOT toll station, from HCM City to Mekong Delta provinces.
Therefore, fee collection had to be halted; however, four other lanes of the route saw no obstruction.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s VNĐ200 or 100. It’s okay of they give me VNĐ500. Many drivers transporting goods from Bình Dương City or HCM City to the Mekong Delta provinces are exhausted. If a traffic jam occurs, the investors need to open the BOT gates,” a driver named Dũng said.
Under pressure from the congestion, BOT Cai Lậy opened a lane on the other side and guided vehicles from HCM City to turn and continue their trip to the Mekong Delta provinces.
However, despite having five lanes, the traffic jam continued. On the other side, a similar situation occurred as only three lanes were opened for vehicles from the Mekong Delta provinces to HCM City.
“I’m so tired. Passengers have travelled a long way from the Central Highlands city of Đà Lạt to Kiên Giang. They become angry with us. Not only bus drivers, container drivers are put under pressure. Financial losses will be huge, I think,” according to a driver named Sơn.
At 2.23am on Friday morning, BOT Cai Lậy opened its gates for the third time.
Lưu Văn Hào, vice chairman of Tiền Giang Highway Investment Company Limited, the project’s main investor, said that the company leaders were discussing the situation and could not confirm when toll collection would resume.
Nguyễn Văn Huyện, head of Directorate for Roads, told zing.vn that the agency had appointed a representative to Tiền Giang Province.
“The investors should continue collecting fees even when drivers use small notes to buy tickets. However, in case of traffic congestion, the toll station’s gates have to be opened,” Huyện said.
On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc asked the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) to report on the situation and fix it.
In a press release issued the same day, MoT said that it in collaboration with Tiền Giang Province and investors the toll fee had already been cut by 30 per cent to VNĐ25,000 from VNĐ 140,000 ($1 to $6), depending on the vehicle.
The MoT, Ministry of Security and local authorities are trying to handle the incident, collect fees and prevent disorder at the station.
Although it started to collecting fees from August 1, the toll station was temporarily suspended from operation from August 14 because of strong opposition from drivers.
They complained about the high fees, from VNĐ35,000 ($1.5) to VNĐ180,000 ($7.8) and the toll station’s inappropriate location.
The booth is on National Highway No 1, however, it collects fees for a 12-km bypass of Cai Lậy Town while some drivers only travel on the highway, not the bypass.
The current situation follows a protest on August 13 and 14 when drivers used small notes to buy tickets, causing traffic congestion for hours at the station.
After three months of stopping collecting fees, the tolls restarted from Thursday. — VNS