The Delhi-Gurgaon expressway toll plazas have come to signify legal controversies, public anger and what authorities call mismanagement by the concessionaire.
Size does not matter at the 32-lane toll plaza (now upgraded to 47 with split lanes) in Sirhaul near Delhi border as the operator has failed to tackle the huge traffic volume. Also, at the Kherki Daula toll plaza, 50,000 vehicles, majorly inter-state vehicles plying on NH-8, cause traffic congestion during peak hours.
“The number of vehicles passing through the two plazas has exceeded the permissible limit, which leads to inordinate delays at the toll booths. The plazas must go,” said RS Rathee, president of Gurgaon Citizens’ Council and the vice-president of Toll Hatao Sangharsh Samiti (THSS), an organisation fighting for the removal of the toll plazas.
While quoting the concession agreement signed between the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the concessionaire, Rathee claimed that the operator could collect toll till the number of passenger car units (PCUs) exceeded 1.7lakh per day. According to latest reports, the two toll plazas are handling over 2.5 lakh vehicles daily. “The toll plazas as of today are incapable of handling the traffic that has increased manifold,” said Rathee.
The situation remains grim despite repeated claims by the concessionaire, DGSCL, that the addition of 13 more lanes and booths to the Sirhaul plaza has visibly helped matters. “It has significantly increased the capacity of the Kilometre-24 (Sirhaul) toll plaza as a result of which waiting time is down to five minutes,” claimed a DGSCL spokesperson.
Manpower shortage has been another Achilles’ heel for the Sirhaul plaza, say experts and observers. “At night, the additional lanes are sometimes closed to save on manpower,” alleged Rathee.
The problem was corroborated by the authorities, too. “The police have tried their level best to maintain smooth traffic on the expressway, but the concessionaire did not implement several things that we suggested. The concessionaire does not have adequate manpower,” said Bharti Arora, joint commissioner of police (traffic).