Frequent users of Highway 407 received more than $4 million in free road use and gasoline in the first six months of a new program introduced as part of a settlement with the Ontario government, a source familiar with theplan says.
Under the rewards plan, most heavy users of Canada's first toll highway are now seeing savings worth between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of their monthly bill, a source told the Canadian Press.
The consortium that operates the 407 refused to discuss the results pending an announcement of the second phase on Wednesday.
"It's true that we're about to launch Phase 2 of the program and participation is ramping up," said Dale Albers, spokesman for 407 ETR.
Under the four-year, $40-million program, frequent users of the toll highway can drive between 40 and 140 free kilometres on weekends each month without charge, and save between $2.40 and $13.50 a month on gas.
The company reviews the number of kilometres driven on the 108-kilometre east-west highway, which parallels Highway 401 north of Toronto, and bases the rewards on the previous six months' usage.
Letters have already been mailed to more than 70,000 accounts telling them if they're still in the program and welcoming new eligible customers, the source said.
About 18,000 new accounts are now eligible to participate in the second phase of the loyalty program, which begins Aug. 1.
Petro-Canada has requested the amount of cheaper gas given away as part of the scheme not be revealed, the source said.
Ontario's former Conservative government, under then Premier Mike Harris, signed a 99-year lease in 1999 with the private consortium to operate the highway, which is meant to bleed traffic from a badly congested Highway 401.
However, tolls soared and drivers swamped the company and province with complaints about poor customer service, incorrect billings and heavy-handed collection tactics.
Ontario government reached an agreement in March 2005 that ended a nasty legal dispute in which the province accused 407 ETR of raising tolls illegally.
The program is divided into six-month phases. At the end of each phase, 407 ETR lets drivers, who must average 400 highway kilometres per month, know of their tier status for the next phase.
The second six-month phase is based on customers' use of the highway from Dec. 1, 2006, to May 31, 2007.