A tollbooth in the southern province of Sóc Trăng was forced to open for free for all vehicles twice on Sunday following severe traffic jams deliberately caused by drivers protesting the station. — Photo dantri.com.vn
SÓC TRĂNG — A tollbooth in the southern province of Sóc Trăng was forced to open for free for all vehicles twice on Sunday following severe traffic jams deliberately caused by drivers protesting the station.
Drivers collectively demonstrated from the early morning as they stopped their cars in front of the Soc Trang toll gate located on National Highway 1 but refused to pay the fee and pass through.
The tollbooth was set up to collect fees for investors who invested more than VNĐ1.4 trillion (US$62.2 million) in a road project to expand the National Highway 1 section running across Thuận Hòa Commune and to build a bypass for Sóc Trăng City under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model.
The drivers argued that the booth’s location was “unreasonable” and that they had to pay tolls for the bypass that they did not use, between VNĐ25,000 and 140,000 each depending on the type of vehicle.
The congestion worsened with long lines of cars and trucks stretching more than one kilometre, forcing authorities to order the booth to open for free at 8am.
This was the first time the Sóc Trăng BOT station had to open free after a half year in operation. The second time, however, soon followed in the afternoon of the same day.
The tollbooth decided to start collecting fees again from 2pm, but same scenario was re-enacted with the drivers blocking the station.
A free pass was given out again 20 minutes later as the lines were becoming longer. However, this free pass lasted for only 10 minutes.
BOT tolls reduced
A series of protests from drivers against several BOT tolls across the country – deemed as a domino-effect after drivers’ achieved victory at the Cai Lậy station in Tiền Giang Province - was triggering a toll reduction wave to ease objections.
The Điện Bàn BOT tollbooth in Quảng Nam Province on Sunday announced that the Ministry of Transport has agreed to offer free passes or reduced fees for nearly 1,800 vehicles passing through the station.
The Điện Bàn station director Hồ Anh Sơn said that public buses, light trucks and cars which are owned by those living in the three communes nearby and not used for business purposes will be free to pass the booth. Other vehicles from other neighbourhoods in the Điện Bàn Township will get a 50 per cent discount.
The move will come into effect in February, according to Sơn.
So far, two BOT booths in Quảng Nam: Điện Bàn and Tam Kyỳ were all subject to free passes or fee reductions.
Earlier on Friday, investor of the Sông Phan BOT station in Bình Thuận Province and the People’s Committee of the Cần Thơ City where the Cần Thơ-Phụng Hiệp BOT booth was located, asked the transport ministry to allow a toll reduction. Both the stations saw strong protests from drivers recently. — VNS