Toll Author­ity re­view needed

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE TOLL Author­ity was estab­lished un­der the Toll Road Act, and one of its many func­tions is to “fur­ther the in­ter­est of the users of the toll roads by es­tab­lish­ing a sys­tem for the rec­om­men­da­tion of the reg­u­la­tions of tolls in the in­ter­est of the users”. If it sounds con­fus­ing, that is be­cause it’s con­fus­ing. In this re­gard, I there­fore call on the min­is­ter who is re­spon­si­ble for the port­fo­lio to im­me­di­ately com­mis­sion an over­haul of the role and func­tion of the Toll Author­ity.

This agency should be analysing and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to the min­is­ter re­gard­ing how the toll roads are op­er­ated in the in­ter­est of the users. The Toll Author­ity should be op­er­at­ing sim­i­lar to the Of­fice of Util­i­ties Reg­u­la­tions – which gives oversight to the var­i­ous util­ity com­pa­nies, such as Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice and the Na­tional Water Com­mis­sion – and it is not.

In my hum­ble opin­ion, it only act as a rub­ber-stamp­ing agency when­ever a toll-rate in­crease is to be ef­fected. Don’t get me wrong, the Toll Author­ity is com­pe­tently staffed and is willing to as­sist once re­quested, but their func­tions must go be­yond that and for them to do that the frame­work from which they op­er­ate must be re-ex­am­ined and a new man­date given.

There are some ma­jor ar­eas that the Toll Author­ity, is not in my opin­ion, fur­ther­ing the in­ter­est of the toll road users, and I will now seek to iden­tify some of these. 1) Elec­tronic Toll Tags Why has the Author­ity not taken any steps to en­sure that elec­tronic tags once topped up can be used on the East-West or North-South High­way? To have sep­a­rate tags for trav­el­ling on each High­way is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and not in the in­ter­est of the mo­torist. The elec­tronic toll-tag sys­tem must be sorted out as I am sure the tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to do it. As the reg­u­lat­ing agency, surely, it can pull the two op­er­a­tors to­gether and come to some com­mon ground to the ben­e­fit of the mo­torist 2) The Author­ity must as a mat­ter of ur­gency, through its par­ent min­istry and all as­so­ci­ated en­ti­ties, specif­i­cally the Na­tional Road Op­er­a­tions & Con­struc­tion Com­pany, find a way to in­ter­con­nect the East-West and North-South High­ways. There should be an ac­cess point with­out com­pro­mis­ing rev­enues for the op­er­a­tors. Ja­maica is too small to have two ma­jor high­ways with­out con­nec­tion points.

MAIN­TAIN ITS REL­E­VANCE

3) Mo­tor-ve­hi­cle classes The North-South High­way has four classes of ve­hi­cles, while for some un­known rea­son, the East­West has only three. On the East­West, there is no class for mo­torised two-wheeled ve­hi­cles (bikes) and three-wheeled ve­hi­cles. The re­sult is that these users have to pay the equiv­a­lent toll charge for a Class One ve­hi­cle, which is grossly un­fair to the pub­lic, and what I will term a gross fail­ure on the part of the toll author­ity to ad­dress this is­sue. To say that they are un­aware would not be the truth. How much longer will they al­low this to con­tinue. They hap­pily fa­cil­i­tated the op­er­a­tors’ re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of ve­hi­cles and so must now hap­pily ask the op­er­a­tors of the East-West high­way to in­stall a class four in the pub­lic in­ter­est and in keep­ing with their cur­rent man­date .

If the Toll Author­ity is to main­tain its rel­e­vance, then it must un­dergo an agency re­view to en­sure that the in­ter­est of the pub­lic is pro­tected from the toll op­er­a­tors.

4) Why in this highly tech­no­log­i­cal era the toll booths can­not gen­er­ate a bal­ance? To get this bal­ance, the mo­torist should not need to go into an of­fice, wast­ing time, or try­ing to ac­cess an elec­tronic sys­tem which some­how don’t seem to work (for me, at least ). HOWARD D. HAMIL­TON JP Port­more Pines, Greater Port­more, St Cather­ine how_hamil@ya­hoo.com

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