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China Daily Website

Highway management must be transparent

Updated: 2014-01-07 18:28

Before the 15-year toll period expires for a section of highway in Heze of Shandong province, the provincial highway administration gave five reasons it should continue collecting tolls on the road. But none of the reasons holds up, says an editorial in the 21st Century Business Herald. Excerpts below:

The five reasons are, first, some sections of the highway becoming toll-free would hinder completion of the highway system; second, a toll-free highway would be congested; third, the ordinary roads in China will be free and the highways will be the main contributor of tolls according to the policy arrangement of the central government; fourth, the other nine sections of road built by the government cannot collect enough tolls to repay their construction loans within the fixed tolling period; and fifth, highway maintenance requires a lot of money.

Some sections of highway in Guangdong and all of the highways in Hainan province are toll-free. But there is no traffic congestion. The central government does not say all highways should collect tolls from drivers.

China replaced the road maintenance fee with the petroleum consumption tax on Jan 1, 2009. Tax revenue rose to 281.1 billion yuan ($46.45 billion) in 2012 from 118.5 billion yuan in 2008. The money for road maintenance rose by more than twice. However, during the same period, the mileage of national highway increased only 13.7 percent, from 3.73 million km to 4.24 million km.

The central government should respond with a clear message to such local highway administration feedback to the public’s doubts. The highway network is not a burden for the government, but a valuable asset if the government can improve its management of the huge asset. How the road maintenance fees are used should also be more transparent to citizens, who have been left in the dark for too long.