Liu Shinan

Explanation needed for double-pay tolls

By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-01 08:15
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A few days ago, I watched a program on the Shandong Television (SDTV) and learned with astonishment that the toll for the Beijing airport expressway had been reduced by half nearly two years ago. The SDTV reporter's investigation revealed that the Beijing road authorities had ruled that starting from Oct 1, 2009, vehicles would be charged only once for return trips to and from Beijing Capital International Airport rather than twice as it had been before.

This was a surprise. During the past two years, I have been to the airport many times and each time I have had to pay a toll in both directions. I never learned, and was never informed by any toll collector, that one needs to pay only once, for on showing receipt of payment at the tollgate one is entitled to a free return pass. Obviously I am not the only person who is ignorant of this nearly two-year-old policy. Five of the 12 drivers using the expressway interviewed by SDTV said they did not know they only had to pay one way.

Why are so many people ignorant of the policy? Did the expressway managers not announce it? According to the SDTV report, the Capital Expressway Development Co Ltd (CEDC) has used three means to "notify" drivers. There is a large billboard about 50 meters beyond the tollgate, a small notice posted beside the window of each toll booth and the information is also printed on the back of receipts.

On learning this, I blamed myself for not noticing them. However, it is clear I am not the only one. Few of the interviewees in the SDTV investigation said they were aware of the notices.

None of the three forms of announcement adopted by the CEDC is obvious enough.

First, the billboard was erected in the wrong place. Nobody will stop to read a billboard after paying a toll. Second, posting the notice on the far end side of the collection window means it is easy to miss. Normally the driver will look at the toll collector and then turn his eyes in the direction he is driving and even if people do realize there is a notice that concerns them, most people won't stop to read the notice because of the crescendo of honking that would come from the car behind.

And how many people have the habit of looking at the back of their receipt?

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