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Single electronic tag for all tollroads readied

/ 05:28 AM September 07, 2017

The country’s three major tollroad operators overseeing expressways in Metro Manila and parts of Luzon are poised to sign an agreement this month to integrate their payment systems.

The plan for a tollroad collection interoperability agreement, which could be signed as early as next week, was announced by the Department of Transportation yesterday. The objective is to provide a more convenient travel experience for motorists around a year from now.

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The country’s tollroad sector is controlled by San Miguel Corp. (South Luzon Expressway, Metro Manila Skyway, Naia Expressway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway and Star Tollway), Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (North Luzon Expressway, Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway and Cavite Expressway) and Ayala Corp. (Muntinlupa Cavite Expressway).

The agreement was initially among those planned within the first 100 days of the Duterte administration, but it took a backseat to other issues. Negotiations “intensified” anew this year, an individual with knowledge of the matter said.

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“Our expressways are managed by different companies. But they have always demonstrated that they are willing to work together and work with the government if that means giving motorists, their customers, a better travel experience,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.

An integrated payment system will allow motorists to use a single electronic tag while traveling between tollroads of different operators.

“For example, after completion of the NLEx-SLEx connector roads, a motorist will only have to get a ticket once at an NLEx entry and pay once at an SLEx exit,” the DOTr said. For cash payments, motorists get a ticket per entry and pay at the exit gate “regardless of which toll road they enter and exit from.”

Rodrigo Franco, CEO of MPIC’s Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., said in an interview yesterday that the one-year deadline was reasonable.

The DOTr said it would take around six months to integrate Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems and another six months for cash collections.

Franco noted that tollroads operated by MPIC and SMC had RFID platforms, but there were complex technical issues that needed to be resolved first.

“These are not exactly similar systems. There are differences in the process, mainly on the internal workings of the systems,” he noted. Franco said there would be added investments, mainly on programming costs, but these were not expected to be significant.

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Moving forward, Franco also urged the government to come up with specific standards on toll collection systems, with new expressways in the pipeline.

MPIC is building the Cavite-Laguna Expressway and an elevated connector road in Metro Manila. SMC is building its own NLEx-SLEx connector road and has signalled its intent to expand existing projects.

“If there is a specific standard, it will be easier for the operator for future interoperability. Right now, there is no standard,” Franco said. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: payment systems, tollroads
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