Fearing that the public anger over having to pay hefty toll on highways— even when expansion work is on — may mar its electoral prospects, the government is planning to not only reduce the toll on all such stretches but also freeze it till the upgradation work is completed.
While half-a dozen states are going to poll next year, parliamentary elections are due in 2014.
Government officials said the road transport ministry is considering a proposal to cap the toll on all such highways, which are being expanded from four to six lanes to 80% of the normal toll for the entire duration of the upgradation work.
The developers would be allowed to charge full toll only when upgradation work is completed. At present, there are 31 such four-laned highway stretches across India which are being upgraded to six lanes.
There have been several instances in the last one year— including the recent agitation by Bhartiya Kisan Union when activists took over and blocked highway stretches in Uttar Pradesh — where people have protested against high toll at highways.
The reduced toll, the government feels, will compel private developers to complete the work on time.
Developers so far have not been in any hurry to complete work on time as under the existing rule for upgrading a highway from four to six lanes, they are allowed to charge full toll even while the expansion work is going on. “There is no disincentive for delaying the project,” an official said.
The proposal is likely to be taken up for cabinet approval shortly.
The issue has caused a lot of heartburn amongst commuters, who despite paying hefty toll are forced to negotiate risky highway stretches where upgradation work is going on.