SMC Infra starts ‘Seamless Southern Tollways’ program

South Luzon Expressway

In its bid to cut down the multiple stops along San Miguel Corporation (SMC)-operated expressways, SMC Infrastructure has implemented the “Seamless Southern Tollways” program.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • When did the Seamless Southern Tollway program begin?

    The program started last December at the southbound lane of the SMC-operated expressways.
  • How does the new system work?

    Under the new system, motorists only need to stop at two toll plazas for payment instead of five when going to Batangas.
  • The company said that the initiative began yesterday (December 1).

    In a statement, Department of Transportation (DoTR) Secretary Jaime Bautista said that the move is a timely development as the country heads into the high-traffic volume Christmas season and would have significant long-term benefits for local economies. 

    “This is a welcome development for so many of our countrymen who will be heading home to the provinces this December. Usually, our expressways experience the heaviest traffic particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Fortunately, it seems we will all have some relief starting this December, as our private partner toll operator, SMC Infrastructure, has successfully completed the work needed to make travel through SLEX, Skyway, and STAR, more seamless,” Bautista said. 

    DOTr Sec. Jaime Baustista at Road Safety symposium

    “Beyond the holidays, this initiative will make the transportation of people and goods to and from Southern Luzon provinces much faster and more efficient, with no impact or change in toll rates. I commend SMC for continuously looking for ways to minimize traffic and improve people’s travel experience along its expressways, and for investing in sensible and more sustainable solutions to traffic such as this,” he added. 

    San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon Ang said that the program — which is part of the company's continuing efforts to improve operations to minimize traffic and enhance motorists’ user experience — will essentially make travel along STAR, SLEX, and the entire Skyway system (Stages 1,2,3) much faster.

    “Our goal when we started was to cut down toll stops from five to just two--entry and exit--whether for electronic RFID or cash payments, for both southbound and northbound vehicles across all our southern tollways. With this, we can make trips for motorists faster, more seamless, and less stressful, as they will no longer need to endure long queues at multiple toll plazas within the expressways,” Ang said. 

    Ramon Ang

    Under the current scheme, southbound motorists coming from the north and heading to Batangas usually have to make five stops: entry via the Del Monte Skyway 3 toll plaza, then another three stops at the Calamba, SLEX Greenfield, and Sto. Tomas toll plazas, before reaching exit point. 

    On the new scheme, Ang said that the new scheme will reduce toll stops to two and will have to make stops at the entry and exit points. In the new northbound toll set-up, toll plazas in the middle will be pass-through and payment stops shall only be done at the Skyway main plaza and the exit point. 

    SMC said that while there is no change in toll rates, fees that used to be collected at the eliminated toll stops will be added to the total fees to be collected at the exit point.  

     “Some motorists may find this confusing at first, and they might wonder why the toll fee is higher. This may even lead to traffic buildup at some exit points as some motorists will inevitably take longer to make inquiries,” Ang pointed out. 

    “We want to make sure, as much as we can, that all motorists understand that there are no toll fee increases, and that we still also have to pay for use of the various expressways. It’s just that all the remaining payments will be collected in one go at the exit,” he clarified.  

    While the new Seamless Southern Tollways program for southbound traffic started December 1, the set-up for northbound traffic shall commence by December 15. The integration of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Expressway is set for the first quarter of 2023.  

    The company’s chief executive said that the major development that allowed SMC Infrastructure to improve the process is the motorists’ wider adoption of the Autosweep RFID electronic toll collection system. 

    Since the pandemic, ETC penetration has grown from 45 percent to 80 percent

    When the pandemic hit, SMC successfully implemented its program to waive toll fees for some 10,500 medical front-liners for around one year and three months, through its Autosweep RFID system, which amounted to over P246.5 million.  In recent weeks, it also refunded motorists affected by a momentary disruption in the toll collection system.  

    Further, Ang said that the program is also part of SMC Infra’s preparation for full interoperability with other expressways, which it has been pushing for, and working on with government and other tollway operators. 

    “This improvement in the southern tollways will enhance the upcoming interoperability project, as it will contribute to the overall seamlessness of travel across all expressways,” he said 

    “At the end of the day, what we want to achieve is to minimize traffic and the time our countrymen spend on the road. That is why we constantly invest to improve our infrastructure and the systems that help run them — so we can make sure trips are efficient, seamless, and as safe as possible for the public,” Ang added. 

    Photos from San Miguel Corporation

    Also read:

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