Japan plans to introduce a variable road pricing system nationwide in stages from the fiscal year starting April 2025 as part of efforts to ease traffic jams on expressways, sources said.

The government is considering including the plan in its basic economic and fiscal management guidelines to be compiled in June, the sources said Friday.

The transport ministry will start talks this summer with expressway operators on details of the system aimed at controlling traffic volumes by flexibly setting tolls depending on sections and the time of day.

Leading drivers to avoid rush hours and heavy traffic routes will help reduce road congestion and air pollution, ministry officials noted.

Variable tolling was implemented on the Metropolitan Expressway during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics for smooth transportation of the Games' officials and participants, charging users an extra ¥1,000 between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. while offering a 50% discount between midnight and 4 p.m.

In a pilot program, tolls on the Tokyo Bay Aqualine connecting Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture have been raised to ¥1,200 for ordinary vehicles from ¥800 between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. and reduced to ¥600 between 8 p.m. and midnight since July last year.

The ministry is also working on promoting expressway commuter passes, whose holders are eligible for discounts of up to 50% on designated sections depending on the frequency of use. Currently, they are available in six prefectures including Ishikawa and Hokkaido on a trial basis.

To encourage the use of expressways instead of crowded local roads, the ministry aims to fully introduce the passes nationwide as early as fiscal 2026.