Japan Highway Public Corp. will abolish toll discounts extended to group users of expressways in a bid to ensure fairness, transport minister Chikage Ogi said Friday.

The move follows recent revelations that some companies have been abusing the system. Ogi said the move will reduce expressway tolls for general users.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will abolish the discounts, introduced in 1966, within two years. The system was intended to help heavy users of expressways, such as long-distance buses and trucks.

The group discounts are currently available to members of 8,093 business associations that enjoy discounts of up to 30 percent.

These associations, some of which are barely related to the transport industry, have been abusing the system for years. Ogi said some associations were established just to receive toll-rate discounts.

Ogi also instructed Japan Highway Public Corp. to launch an investigation into other abuses, with an eye to filing damage suits.

Group users received discounts totaling 220 billion yen in fiscal 2002. Japan Highway’s total revenue from expressway tolls was about 1.85 trillion yen in the same year.

The current scheme will be replaced by a new discount system utilizing the electronic toll collection system, Ogi said.

The ETC system electronically responds to a special device installed in cars as they approach toll gates.

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