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2011年8月14日 (日)

東北高速無料化 「ただ乗り」許せば意味がない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 14, 2011)
Free riders make mockery of toll-free Tohoku expressways
東北高速無料化 「ただ乗り」許せば意味がない(8月13日付・読売社説)

One of the most glaring deficiencies of the populist policies espoused by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan has been exposed.

Many drivers have been taking advantage of the exemption on expressway tolls for trucks in the disaster-struck Tohoku region to travel without paying.

Hundreds of long-distance truck drivers bound for Tokyo and its vicinity from western Japan have exploited loopholes in this system by taking a longer route to get on or off at a toll-free section and avoid paying.

The system was intended to smooth the flow of goods to disaster areas by lowering transportation costs.  トラックを対象とした無料化は本来、輸送コストを引き下げて被災地向けの物流を円滑にすることが目的だった。

However, a large number of truckers that have nothing to do with recovery work have abused the system by repeatedly traveling long distances on expressways for free.

This has resulted in traffic often backing up from toll gates as far as driving lanes, and frustrated ordinary drivers.

On the other side of the coin, trucking companies and related businesses in disaster-hit areas have welcomed the toll-free system.


Flawed from the beginning

We think the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry should survey residents in affected areas and conduct fact-finding investigations regarding the toll-free system.
If the ministry concludes the system is doing more harm than good, it should be dumped.

We believe there might have been problems with making Tohoku expressways toll-free from the very beginning.

Since June 20, vehicles driven by March 11 disaster victims, people who evacuated from around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and midsize or larger trucks have had their tolls waived.

These vehicles are exempt from paying when starting from or arriving at toll gates on 20 sections of expressways in Tohoku and parts of Ibaraki and Niigata prefectures.

To use the system, drivers need certificates issued by municipal governments that prove they are disaster victims. However, trucks do not need these certificates and are not even asked about the purpose of their travel.  被災者は自治体の被災証明が必要だが、トラックは不要で、走行目的もチェックされない。

Consequently, trucks can travel without paying on expressway sections that have no tollgates.

Here's one case that highlights the system's flaws.

A truck drives from the Kansai region via the Meishin, Chuo, Keno or Kita-Kanto expressways and passes a tollbooth at the Mito Interchange of the Joban Expressway, which is in a toll-free section.

The truck then makes a U-turn and drives back through the same tollgate--again without having to pay.
This would enable the truck to reach its actual destination in Tokyo or neighboring areas without paying a single yen.


System must be reviewed

A transport ministry survey conducted in late July found about 800 of 6,000 trucks that went through tollgates of the Mito Interchange from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. returned to those gates--but in the opposite direction--within one hour.

This meant one or two of every 10 trucks were suspected of unfairly using the toll-free system, according to the ministry.

It is also problematic that narrow streets used by children going to school and residential roads near interchanges have become clogged with heavy trucks.
Many locals have complained about the trucks making dangerous U-turns and the noise they generate.

Although making a U-turn around interchanges on national highways is illegal, some truck drivers have turned around at parking lots of commercial establishments and other places. The result is that the situation remains uncorrected.

The DPJ's campaign pledge to make all expressways toll-free is foolish because even people who do not use expressways will be forced to bear financial burdens related to them.

The confusion sparked by the toll-free Tohoku expressways should be an opportunity to put the DPJ's toll abolition plan under the microscope.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 13, 2011)
(2011年8月13日01時27分  読売新聞)


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