Toll break for quake survivors

Kyodo

The transport ministry plans to exempt people affected by the catastrophic March 11 earthquake and tsunami from paying expressway tolls in the Tohoku region starting June 20, ministry officials have said.

The ministry also plans to scrap from midnight June 19 the ¥1,000 upper limit for expressway tolls on national holidays and a toll-free expressway trial under way at 50 sections across the country, to help secure funds for an extra budget in fiscal 2011 for the reconstruction of quake-hit areas, they said.

People carrying certificates stating that they have suffered damage to their homes or property as a result of the twin disasters will not be charged tolls on the Tohoku Expressway running north of Shirakawa in Fukushima Prefecture, the Joban Expressway north of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture and the Banetsu Expressway.

Sections of expressways in Aomori, Akita and Yamagata prefectures in the Tohoku region that were toll-free under the trial will also remain free for people affected by the disaster. Medium-size and large vehicles, including buses and trucks, will also not be charged for running on the designated Tohoku sections.

While scrapping the ¥1,000 upper limit for national holidays, implemented in March 2009, the government will maintain the 50 percent discount on expressway tolls on national holidays and weekday reductions for the time being.