Over the past years China has built a great system of expressways. They are a lot better than most highways in the US and Europe, and they run all over the country. However, because almost all of them are toll roads (the easiest and most fair way to earn the investment back) this leads to problems close to big cities. When I drive from Hangzhou to Shanghai, the drive itself is normally about 1.5 hours. However, I have to add at least 30 minutes if I drive on a Sunday afternoon because of the huge waiting lines at the toll gates (especially the one where you enter Shanghai). I hear from friends that on working days it’s normally even worse, especially when there are accidents (like the bus in the picture that crashed through a toll gate).
For years I have been wondering why nobody would do something about the waiting time. It’s not so difficult, just sell pre-paid electronic cards and the flow of traffic will go a lot faster. It’s not rocket science and it’s been done in many other countries. But China didn’t really seem to care, most people just accepted the waiting time (am I really the only one who feels it’s a total waste of time?) and nothing really changed, except that lines were getting even longer.
But things may finally change. An article in today’s Shanghai Daily writes that on the A9 the situation at the toll stations is now getting out of hand, waiting times at the toll gates are normally more than 1 hour during peak hours! I avoid that road nowadays, and try to take smaller roads if I go to Sheshan on weekends. Maybe some officials living in the area have to endure the daily waiting time as well and decided to complain, because the government is going to do something about it.
They announced three measures to ease traffic congestion at the Xujing toll booth: increase the toll gates from 18 to 24, train toll collectors to collect toll within 8 seconds, and install a toll station with electronic toll equipment. I think this might help a lot and I hope they will implement it at all other toll stations around Shanghai as well. And I also hope they will be smart enough to make the entrance for the ETC at least 1-2 kilometers before the toll gates, otherwise you still have to queue up in a traffic jam with all the other drivers.