Following widespread outrage against expressway build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects across India that has seen tension between toll plaza staffers and commuters refusing to pay toll, the ministry of road transport and highways is now contemplating a toll-free model.
In this model, the commuters need not pay toll for travelling as operators earn revenue out of property rights such as advertisement and rentals.
Besides Delhi-Gurgaon expressway, trouble related to toll collection is brewing at Reliance Infrastructure’s Guragon-Faridabad Road as well where local people have assaulted the toll plaza staffers and refused to pay toll.
Recently, the ministry invited bids for appointing a techno-financial consultant for introducing the toll-free pilot project at Hero Honda Chowk on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and the 8-lane elevated corridor on Delhi-Dasna Road on National Highway-24 in Uttar Pradesh.
The ministry has conceptualised a multi-storeyed building on the clogged Hero Honda crossing with a stretch of the expressway passing through it. It proposes that the NH-8 branch out into three or four elevated stretches through the floors of the building, thus segregating local and interstate traffic and eventually joining the rest of the highway through cloverleaf roads.
According to ministry officials, the project can be made financially sustainable by using the remaining floors of the building for commercial purposes. The concept is borrowed from the 16-storey Gateway Tower Building in Osaka, Japan, where a stretch of the Hanshin Expressway passes through two floors of the building.
According to officials, tolling is not envisaged as a revenue stream for the preferred bidder in such projects. Its success will pave way for a new approach to the financing of road infrastructure projects as the commuters need not pay toll to the operators.
The operators could earn revenue out of rentals/leasing and advertisement rights from the property, such as the multi-level commercial building at Hero Honda Chowk or the elevated Delhi-Dasna corridor.