Report: Toll companies employ too many

10:55, May 23, 2011      

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China's tollway system, widely criticized for overcharging shipping companies and the public that uses the roads, employs too many workers and is inefficient, some recent reports suggest.

In Luoyang, Central China's Henan province, a road company that manages fewer than 100 kilometers of tollways employs more than 400 people and spends about 40 million yuan ($6.16 million) on operational costs each year, according to a report by China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday.

The road, managed by the Luoyang branch of the Henan Highway Development Co, constitutes a short section of one of the country's east-west arterial highways.

"We are running short of hands here for road operation and maintenance," Yang Xishan, deputy manager of the company's Luoyang branch, was quoted by CCTV as saying.

Yang said the company has arranged for about 250 employees to work at its six toll stations. Another 60 are to manage and maintain the road, 50 are assigned to the company's nine functional departments and 50 are to test vehicle speeds, repair electromechanical devices used along the road and perform other special tasks.

"The work our crew does is quite intense, and it's hard to reduce the number of employees we have on the front line here," Xu Jianzhou, head of the Yanshi toll station, one of the toll stations on the road, was quoted as saying. He said the station now employs 40 workers, 24 of whom are toll collectors.

In its report, CCTV wondered if the company shouldn't reduce the number of staff members in its administrative offices. An investigation conducted by a CCTV reporter found that various workers of that type were absent during regular hours.

The company is not the only one being criticized for employing too many people to work on a small stretch of road.

In Shangluo, a prefecture-level city adjacent to Xi'an in Shaanxi province, a toll station on 312 National Road was reported to be employing twice the number of workers than called for by a personnel quota.

Liu Zhanghou, chief of the traffic bureau of the city's Shangzhou district, told Xi'an Evening News that the toll station, in Zhangchun village, now employs 87 regular workers, much more than the 45 called for the quota.

Liu said all of the surplus workers were hired before he took his current post and that only 57 staff members now work there.

Yang Hongshan, a professor of public administration at Renmin University of China, told China Daily that allowing too many people to be employed at the toll companies will not only increase the cost of shipping goods but also lead to greater inequalities in the incomes taken home by workers.

Yang said toll roads have greatly benefited China's shipping industry. He blamed the overly large staff sizes on the high profits made from toll collection, which lead many people to compete for a job at one of the companies.

"The large staff sizes will add to the personnel costs of road management companies," he said. "That could lead to increased tolls and eventually raise shipping costs.

"In addition, collecting tolls has become such a lucrative business. But only a small group of people can share in the profits, and that will lead to social inequality."

Yang said transport authorities, as well as local financial, audit and price departments, should place the road companies under stricter supervision. He said achieving that goal will be difficult, since toll collection companies are often partly owned by local governments.

Source:China Daily
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