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'eTag' not necessary for freeway travel
Central News Agency
2014-01-13 11:18 PM
Taipei, Jan. 13 (CNA) The chairman of the private company that runs the controversial electronic freeway toll collection system seemed to be unaware Monday that vehicles without the "eTag" sensor can still operate on Taiwan's freeways. Motorists without eTag toll accounts can in fact have their toll bills printed out at any service center of Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co. or convenience stores and pay at the same location. The only catch is that they have to wait for travel distance information to be uploaded to the payment system -- a process that will take four days, according to Far Eastern. The new distance-based toll system took effect on Jan. 2, and a spate of complaints of overcharging for tolls has surfaced since then, with some dissatisfied motorists threatening to dump the "eTag" sticker. Responding to the criticism, Far Eastern chairman Douglas Hsu apologized for the system's glitches four times but suggested that those who wanted to abandon the eTag system were perfectly free to do so. "If you want to pull out, then pull out," Hsu said during a trip in Shanghai when asked about the eTag controversy. He then said it would not be in motorists' favor to make such a move, reasoning erroneously that it would keep them off the freeway. "I want to ask how you would take the freeway after you drop out," Hsu said, perhaps unaware that motorists do not need the eTag to drive on national freeways. For cars without the sticker, freeway cameras will take pictures of their license plates rather than the eTag sticker to establish the distance they have traveled, with the data then fed to the payment system. But those who do not use the eTag must stay on top of payment deadlines. Normally, the toll collection company sends a regular letter to the address at which the vehicle is registered within 12-27 days after the travel distance information is uploaded. After then, a registered letter will be delivered, which will cost the bill recipient an extra NT$50. According to Far Eastern data, over 5.2 million vehicles are currently using the eTag system, but some reports said about 1,000 angry eTag users were dropping out of the system every day. The Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau said the reports were misleading, however, because most of the motorists moving away from the eTag system were actually changing to new vehicles. Calling the phenomenon of 1,000 eTag account changes each day as reasonable, Hsu said there are over 300,000 new cars registered in Taiwan each year. Citing Far Eastern statistics, the number of eTag applications now averages over 8,000 cases each day, Hsu noted. Meanwhile, the bureau announced that from Monday, it would launch surprise checks on Far Eastern's payment system and information safety to ensure that overcharging incidents will not reoccur or that refunds are given. (By Wang Shu-fen and Elizabeth Hsu)
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