Stuck since 2007, the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) project — one half of the peripheral road around Delhi —may finally take off.
The reason for the delay was the government's inability to decide how much toll commuters should pay for using the proposed 135 km stretch.Along with the Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE), which is being implemented by the Haryana government and is near completion, the EPE will complete the ring road around Delhi and provide an alternate route to traffic not bound for the Capital, thereby helping decongest Delhi roads.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet road minister CP Joshi and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on May 31 to decide the toll to be charged on the EPE.
"The core group headed by the finance minister was formed in February following directions from the Prime Minister's Office to resolve the toll dispute. It could not, however, meet so far because of the budget session," said a source.
While the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) and the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC) have approved levying of normal toll rates on EPE at par with rates in other national highways, including the WPE, the road ministry wants to levy 50% more than the normal toll rate on the ground that the EPE is a bypass, not a highway. Bypass toll is 1.5 times higher than normal toll.
The move to levy more toll on the EPE has come under flak from senior Planning Commission officials, including former member secretary Sudha Pillai, and the finance ministry on the grounds that levying higher toll would go against "public interest" and make the project "unviable" vis-à-vis WPE. The delay has not only resulted in the EPE's cost escalating but has also resulted in loss of thousands of lives in accidents caused by outbound heavy and commercial vehicles passing through Delhi.