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IOC green-lights time-based toll system for Tokyo expressways during 2020 Games

The Gaien entrance to the Metropolitan Expressway is seen closed during a test on potential Olympics and Paralympics traffic easing measures, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, on July 24, 2019. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

TOKYO -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it will allow a time-based variable toll system for Tokyo's expressways during the 2020 Games to reduce traffic congestion, according to sources close to the event organizers.

The IOC had initially been resistant to the idea over worries it would impose a burden on the general public. However, the green light from the committee opens the way for a full-scale discussion in the host city on implementing the variable tolls during the games.

According to the sources, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games recently set the scene for negotiations with the IOC. Games organizers ran a test of other large-scale traffic control procedures on the Japanese capital's Metropolitan Expressway on July 24 and 26. However, these resulted in just a 7% reduction in traffic volume from the same days in 2018, the organizers explained to the IOC -- far short of the goal of up to 30%. The sources said the organizing committee then emphasized the necessity of the variable toll system, and won the IOC's consent.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is expected to present a proposal for the implementation of a road pricing system to the organizing committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government at an Aug. 26 meeting.

The highest congestion periods on the Central Circular Route and the expressways within it are expected to be in daylight hours. The solution seen as most likely to be adopted would slap an extra 1,000 yen charge on primarily passenger cars using the routes between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., while cutting the usual toll in half for all Tokyo expressways between midnight and 4 a.m. This, it is hoped, will encourage people to use the roads at night instead of the daytime.

The transport minister will approve of such a system upon obtaining agreement from local assemblies along the expressway routes, including Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

(Japanese original by Tadashi Murakami, Sports News Department)

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