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By Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Japan will limit national highway tolls for passenger cars to 2,000 yen ($24) on weekdays from April while keeping a 1,000 yen cap for weekends, a move that could encourage drivers to make longer trips on weekdays.
The decision represents a compromise by the government, which said last April it wanted to cap tolls at 2,000 yen seven days a week.
Japan implemented the current highway toll discount system in March 2009, capping the rate at 1,000 yen for passenger cars during weekends and national holidays irrespective of distance covered, a move aimed at stoking the flagging economy.
Following is a list of important points in the change from April announced by the trade ministry this week:
-- The toll will be capped on weekdays for the first time. Currently, the 1,000 yen cap only applies at weekends and on national holidays for mini-vehicles and passenger cars equipped with electronic toll collection (ETC) systems.
-- The new caps, to take effect for about three years from April, will apply to all mini-cars and passenger cars including those without ETC.
-- A 1,000 yen cap will apply to mini-vehicles seven days a week, while passenger cars will pay a maximum 1,000 yen at weekends and national holidays, and up to 2,000 yen on weekdays.
Eco-friendly cars such as hybrids and electric vehicles equipped with ETC will have caps of 1,000 yen on weekdays from this summer.
-- The caps do not apply to trucks and buses on weekdays, though tolls are at present halved for all vehicles between midnight and 4 a.m. seven days a week, and that discount will remain in place.
-- The 2,000 yen cap for passenger cars on weekdays represents a bargain compared to earlier levies for those driving more than 70 km (44 miles). But for most highway users, who drive less than 50 km (31 miles), the tolls already amount to less that the new cap. ($1=83.58 Yen) (Editing by Michael Watson)