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Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
New expressway fare to be introduced by November

Since July 14, the attention of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) has been on the introduction of a special expressway toll for motorcycles. Under the current system, motorcycles are charged the same tolls as light automobiles.

The thinking was that two-wheelers occupy the same lane as four-wheelers, maintain the same speed, and thus enjoy identical benefits from driving on the expressway. But motorcycle manufacturers with an eye on expanding their market countered that it was unfair to charge the same tolls as automobiles, a sentiment echoed by riders.

The new scheme will enable riders to link their journeys on the East Japan and Central Japan Expressways via the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway. By November, a special touring fare is to be set on a limited basis. The change is expected to stimulate local economies hoping to attract more travelers.

Expressway operators, however, pointed out that changes to their systems will be required to charge different tolls, and this will entail considerable cost. With this in mind, the ministry is proposing a flat-rate plan that will apply to the different highway companies during certain travel seasons. As long as riders remain within certain sectors, they can enter and leave the expressways freely for ¥2,500 for two days. The system will require riders to use ETC (electronic passes), and reservations must be made online.

Four expressway routes are under consideration: Tomei and Chuo; Kanetsu and Tohoku; Tohoku and Joban; and East Kanto and Tokyo Bay Aqualine. As the normal ETC toll for these is about ¥5,000, the trial system promises significant savings.

Cabinet Office
Record-setting growth fails to satisfy

The advisory group to the Cabinet Office—headed by Rissho University professor Hiroshi Yoshikawa—that determines whether the economy is expanding or contracting convened for the first time in nearly two years on June 15. The unanimous view of the members was that the period of expansion that began with the start of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration in December 2012 was likely to achieve continued growth.

It was confirmed that, up to April 2017, the economy grew for 53 consecutive months, the third-longest postwar stretch. Despite this, wages have not risen appreciably. As a result, consumption has lagged, leaving the country with little to show for this economic growth.

Should growth continue through September, it will exceed the 57 months from 1965 to 1970 (referred to as the Izanagi boom), making it the second longest since World War II.

According to the special advisory group’s analysis, an economic contraction was avoided when the consumption tax was increased from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014. Employment and corporate earnings remained favorable, and the economy made it over a difficult peak.

Growth will continue but, from the view of consumers, some are already voicing the view that there is no actual sense of business recovery. Statistically, the average monthly outlay for a working household (two or more people) in 2016 was ¥309,519, down from ¥313,874 in 2012.

Monthly labor statistics, meanwhile, noted that, from April of this year, the average monthly wage (cash per person) was ¥275,321, up by less than 1 percent from the average in ¥272,420 in April 2012.

In terms of actual economic growth, since 2013 the maximum in any given year was 2.6 percent—a paltry figure compared to the more than 10 percent growth per annum that was common during the Izanagi boom of the late 1960s.

Keizaikai magazine
Attention of MLIT has been on the introduction of a special expressway toll for motorcycles