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China to exempt road tolls from cars during holidays

(People's Daily Online)

15:16, August 03, 2012

Edited and translated by Zhang Qian, People's Daily Online

The State Council has approved a plan to lift road tolls for mini-vans taking highways during traditional holidays, according to a notice posted on the Chinese government's official website on August 2.

The widely-anticipated move came as toll collection has fueled public complaints, as it is usually a major cause of traffic jams on highways during holiday travel rushes in China.

According to the notice, mini-vans with seven seats or less and motorcycles will get a free pass through toll roads, bridges and tunnels during Spring Festival, Tomb-Sweeping Day, Labor Day and National Day.

But it will be up to local governments to choose whether to remove tolls on airport highways, the notice said.

To ease traffic woes, authorities have adopted a slew of measures, including promoting the use of "no-stop" electronic toll collection systems and increasing the number of toll gates during periods of heavy travel.

Experts at the Ministry of Transport said travelers will save 10 billion yuan (1.59 billion U.S. dollars) annually after the exemption.

The nation's highways have expanded rapidly since the 1980s, when the country opened the way for social capital to construct roads and allowed investors to collect tolls in return.

Over the past decade, the length of China's roads has expanded to 4.11 million kilometers from 1.77 million kilometers, with highways reaching 84,900 kilometers, the second-longest in the world.

These roads shoulder more than 75 percent of the country's total freight traffic and over 90 percent of passenger transportation.

During a campaign launched by five central government departments in June 2011, 328 tollbooths were eliminated or adjusted and 182 tollways lowered their charges.

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