21 January 2015

NLEX, SCTEX integration pushed

Senate President Franklin Drilon has set deadline on the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) to approve and implement the integration of the North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressways to avoid travel dilemmas and inconvenience experienced by commuters from happening again, especially during peak seasons.

Drilon recently met with officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication, BCDA, MPTC, Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) to iron out issues concerning the implementation of the integration plan for NLEX and SCTEX, which has been pending for years.

Drilon asked the officials to fasttrack the implementation of an integration plan, starting with the signing of the integration agreement scheduled on February 12 of this year.

“To expedite the process, the TRB will simultaneously monitor and review the toll collection systems integration agreement to make sure it will be in conformity with the policy of the government,” said Drilon.

He said the integration will simplify toll collection system and lessen the number of toll collection plazas.

“The integration of the NLEX and SCTEX toll systems will benefit commuters, especially in saving travel time and fuel and increasing convenience for those driving through the tollways,” Drilon said.

“The current setup is too complex and stands improvement. We cannot understand why we have to make five stops going to Subic and four stops going to Tarlac only to pay toll fees, when we can make things better and simpler by simply allowing commuters to pay their fares in full in only one toll plaza,” he added.

Given the dilemma faced by commuters especially during the holiday season, Drilon said it is only proper that changes are put in place, so that the public will not have to endure the same predicament over again.

Drilon said BCDA had informed him preparation will take seven to nine months to be finished, which will cover, among others, the removal of NLEX-Dau and SCTEX-Mabalacat barriers and deployment and commissioning of NLEX integrated toll collection system in all SCTEX and new NLEX toll plazas.

“With the system integration, motorists will no longer have to make several stops only to pay for fares. That means that everyone will soon only have to stop twice in paying tolls throughout NLEX and the SCTEX, as compared to the current situation where we have to stop five times just to pay our fares,” Drilon said.

At present, motorists have to make five stops just to pay toll fees in a trip to Subic. A motorist gets a transit ticket at NLEX entry point in Balintawak, and surrenders it and pays toll fees at NLEX Dau. He then gets a smart card at SCTEX Mabalacat and surrenders it and pays toll fees at SCTEX Tipo toll plaza, only to again pay new toll fees at Subic Freeport Expressway-Tipo.

Drilon said that the tollway authorities and relevant agencies must “exercise diligence” and hasten the reforms in the toll collection systems, given the expected surge of motorists and travellers in the Holy Week and summer season.

He said he is confident that authorities and companies involved in the management of NLEX and SCTEX will be able to introduce and agree on a new collection system to provide commuters seamless travel experience.

He concluded that this is only the first phase of the integration, as plans and discussions to make travel going to North more seamless and convenient are currently being done. These include the integration of NLEX and SCTEX with the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union expressway and the interoperability of the North and South expressways. (Malaya Business Insight)