Around 500,000 commuters travelling daily on the 28km Delhi-Gurgaon expressway won’t have to pay any toll or be stuck in mile-long jams if a proposal submitted to the Delhi high court on Thursday is accepted.
Infrastructure finance firm IDFC, chief financier of the project, has proposed removing the first toll plaza at the border and shifting the second at Kherki Dhaula beyond Gurgaon city limits. The court has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to examine this proposal and respond on May 17, the next date of hearing.
The NHAI has indicated it is agreeable to the suggestion. If approved, it would mean no toll for 200,000 vehicles moving between the Capital and the Millennium City daily. Only those going towards Jaipur would have to pay.
The NHAI has been engaged in a legal fight with the expressway operator, Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Limited (DGSCL), since February 2012, after it issued a termination notice for violation of terms of contract.
The operator moved court after the notice and a final verdict is awaited.
However, sources said, NHAI has made it clear that all financial implications arising from removing the toll plaza would have to be borne by the project operator. Currently, DGSCL earns approximately R18 crore a month in revenue from the two toll plazas.
"NHAI won't pay any compensation to the developer," said an official on condition of anonymity. "If the developer manages the toll plazas well and plugs leakages, it will recover the revenue in the long run."
A bailout may come from the Haryana government. Last year, following mounting protests by commuters facing daily traffic snarls, Bhupinder Singh Hooda's Congress government had evinced interest in buying the project from NHAI.
The matter had also reached the Punjab and Haryana high court, and it had ordered in September that the expressway be made toll-free for about a month in order to ease traffic.
This had resulted in a Rs. 10,000-crore revenue loss to DGSCL.