The state transport department is likely to waive toll tax for state transport corporations’ buses and other government vehicles that will ply between the city and Howrah town using Vidyasagar Setu, after the Writers’ Buildings is shifted to the 14-storey Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) building at Mandirtala.
The existing toll tax for a state transport corporation like Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC), Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) or South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) bus is R50 per trip. For a small vehicle like a car the toll tax at Vidyasagar Setu is R10 for a single trip.
Sources at the state secretariat said that the transport department would discuss the issue of waiving toll tax for these vehicles with the HRBC looking after the maintenance of the bridge and connecting flyovers.
A private agency engaged by the HRBC collects toll tax on behalf of the commissioners from vehicles plying on the bridge. Only army and police vehicles, ambulances and cars used by ministers, MPs and MLAs are exempted from paying toll tax.
With the shift of the state secretariat to Mandirtala, there will be a massive rush of buses and other vehicles plying between Mandirtala and different parts of the city.
Kolkata Police has already requested the transport department seeking to explore the number of existing routes connecting between the city and Howrah town mainly Mandirtala and adjoining areas.
Alapan Bandyopadhyay, principal secretary in charge of the transport department, has reportedly asked the managing directors of the state transport corporations to submit assessment reports to him.
CSTC has already submitted its report giving details of bus routes connecting different points of Kolkata and Mandirtala.
“We will ply adequate number of buses between Kolkata and Mandirtala. These buses from 40 different points like Sealdah, Barrackpore, Tollygunge etc in Kolkata will stop at Mandirtala terminus. Fifty-three buses will ply between Kolkata and Mandirtala in the morning shift while 48 fleets will be provided for afternoon shift. Shuttle serves between Rabindra Sadan and Mandirtala will also be launched,” said CSTC managing director Prasanna Mondal.
Vidyasagar Setu will virtually turn into a money-spinner for the cash-strapped state government.
In order to generate more revenue HRBC authorities have decided to erect big hoardings and billboards in front of hoardings that have come up in the rooftops of buildings along the Vidyasagar Setu and its connecting flyovers in Kolkata and Howrah.
Owners of many residential buildings are doing brisk business selling huge space of rooftops to different advertising agencies using Vidyasagar Setu and connecting flyovers at a time when the bridge, the prime lifeline for the city and eastern states, cries for maintenance.
“A section of owners generate money selling rooftop space of their buildings along the bridge and flyovers to advertising agencies for erecting billboards and hoardings. We have decided to generate more revenue. Therefore, we have decided to erect big billboards in front of the existing hoardings in the rooftops of buildings,” an official of HRBC said.
A senior HRBC official said that transport department has already increased revenue generation to around Rs 45 crore annually from the agency selected for collecting toll tax from the vehicles plying on the bridge. Earlier the state government used to earn Rs 27 crore every year as toll tax.