One Highway Uses 400 Toll Collectors
According to China’s state-run media,
travelling on China’s highways’
could cost you dearly in tolls and other charges.
As the cost of managing China’s highways increases,
so do the logistical costs, which in turn
raises the prices of rice, vegetables, and other goods.
This extra financial burden directly affects
the lives of everyone who uses the highways.
Some media pointed out that the reason toll charges
are so high is due to the collaboration between
officials, businesses, and the organization structure
of absolute power.
Guangzhou Daily reported on May 23 that Henan
Express Company Luoyang Subsidiary has 403 staff
in charge of approximately 62 miles of highway.
According to the report, the Luoyang Subsidiary
only deals with toll administration and has nothing
to do with route planning or road construction.
So an average of four staff per every .62 miles,
is too many. Shanghai-Nanjing Expressway has an
average of 5.4 staff per .62 miles and the toll costs
are even higher.
Moreover, people are suspicious
of the high bridge tolls, and often talk about them.
World Journal reported last weekend that on May 18,
China’s netizens selected the top five
“most profitable” toll bridges in China, which are:
Jiaojiang Bridge in Taizhou, Zhejiang,
Luohe Toll Station in Henan,
Huanghe Bridge in Zhengzhou, Henan,
Bailong Bridge Toll Station in Jinhua, Zhejiang,
and the Huanghe Bridge in Jinan.
However, the total costs involved in constructing
these bridges was not very high.
For example, it only took about 5 million dollars
to construct the Jiaojiang Bridge.
Considering the daily flow of about 25,000 vehicles,
since December 12, 2001, an insider revealed
that the toll stations’ daily revenue is around $38,000.
Thus, the authorities can get back both their principal
and interest in 10 years.
Although the authorities say that these charges
have a legal basis, netizens still complained:
“Taxpayers pay for the construction of the highways
thus, the authorities shouldn’t charge more than
the total investment of the toll bridge. So why are they
making money on us people?”
Professor Ma Guanghai from Shandong University
told the media: “People are complaining about
soaring oil prices and bridge tolls, which in turn raises
the cost of living, along with a multitude of fines.”
According to an investigation conducted by the
Xi’an Evening News, high logistical costs
have resulted in low wholesale prices and
high retail prices of vegetables,
which equally affect both farmers and customers.
For example, the actual costs involved in growing
marrow squash in Shandong Province rises
20 times after the vegetable is transported to Beijing.
China Business News reported on May 17
that in 2009, logistical costs accounted for 12.9 percent
of the total costs of all farm products, with 54 percent
of that 12.9 percent being spent on transportation.
According to China Federation of Logistics and
Purchasing’s latest data, in May of last year,
China’s total logistical costs accounted for
18 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP),
which was the main reason
for the high costs of retail goods.
The high toll bridge charges also cause
many “unofficial cars” to travel along rural roads
thus helping to keep the logistical costs high,
which in turn raises the prices of rice and vegetables.
In Western countries, highways improve people’s lives.
But in China, highways make people’s lives harder.
Although the authorities have discussed cutting tolls,
Xi’an Evening News’ reporters asked, “How could the
logistical costs, known as the ‘last mile’, actually drop
when so many people are making a living
on highway tolls?”
Guangzhou Daily pointed out that the problem exists
due to the “collaboration between officials
and businesses” in China.
For example, the Huaixin Highway Administration
in Hunan, spent $261,000 to build a “Zhenyao Pagoda.”
But the Lanzhou Toll Administration “pre-collected”
2010’s annual tolls in 2009 without permission, right
before the “cancellation of highway maintenance
fees for five ministries” was put into force.
According to the report, the supervisors of these two
institutions had numerous ties with officials and
businesses. With minimal regulation and oversight,
the people in charge can freely distribute the profits
to different businesses, departments, and systems,
or they can leave the business to
bureaucratic merchants, thus affecting the welfare
of the masses. Finally, these businesses naturally
become “cash-cows”, money printing machines, or
cash dispensers, or serve as employment centers
for their relatives. In China,
these bureaucratic-merchant businesses are countless:
from oil to electricity, from cigarettes to salt.
NTD reporters Zeng Yaoxian and Wang Mingyu