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Japan will introduce variable highway tolls nationwide

Japan plans to introduce a variable mileage charging system nationwide from the fiscal year starting April 2025, as part of efforts to reduce traffic congestion on highways, sources said.

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

The Ministry of Transport will begin discussions with highway managers this summer about the details of the system aimed at managing traffic volumes by flexibly setting toll rates depending on sections and time of day.

If motorists avoid rush hours and busy traffic routes, they will help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, ministry officials noted.

During the 2021 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, variable tolling was introduced on the Metropolitan Expressway for smooth transportation of the officials and participants of the Games, with users charged an additional ¥1,000 between 6am and 10pm, while between midnight and 4 p.m. a 50% discount was offered.

In a pilot program, tolls on the Tokyo Bay Aqualine connecting Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture to Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture have been increased from ¥800 between 1:00 PM and 8:00 PM to ¥1,200 for regular vehicles and have since been reduced to ¥600 between 8:00 PM and midnight. July last year.

The ministry is also working to promote highway passes, whose holders are eligible for discounts of up to 50% on certain routes, depending on the frequency of use. They are currently available on a trial basis in six prefectures, including Ishikawa and Hokkaido.

To encourage the use of highways instead of busy local roads, the ministry wants to fully introduce the passes nationwide as early as the 2026 budget year.

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