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The government plans to use 60 billion yen in state funds to cover reductions in expressway tolls on money-losing rural highways, officials said Friday.

The Cabinet decided in 2001 that the government would stop injecting state funds into public highway corporations. But the ministry claims the latest toll cuts do not violate the decision because it would cost more for the state to issue discount tickets to highway users.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry will make a budgetary request for fiscal 2005 to finance the toll reductions, which will be carried out in areas to be excluded from another discount plan by the public highway corporations, including Japan Highway Public Corp., the officials said.

Only vehicles equipped with the electronic toll collection system will be entitled to the state-finance toll cuts.

The highway corporations’ discount plan, to be introduced in stages from September, is aimed at slashing tolls on highways across Japan by an average of 10 percent by next spring. Rural expressways with light traffic probably will be excluded.

The ministry plans to use part of the 60 billion yen from state coffers to support highways in regional areas together with local government subsidies. The ministry claimed the spending will help ease air and noise pollution on toll-free roads running alongside such highways.

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