Toll Authority review needed
THE EDITOR, Sir:
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 counter-productive 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 East-West has only three. On the East-West, 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