After the removal of the Sirhual toll plaza on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, industrialists and residents now want that the Kherki Daula toll plaza should also be shifted out of the city.
Like Sirhaul, the 23-lane Kherki Daula toll plaza has become a major bottleneck on the 27.7-km expressway, with commuters getting stuck in jams every day. Many a times, emergency vehicles like ambulances are also unable to cross the stretch smoothly. The worst affected are office goers and employees working in industrial townships of Manesar, Dharuhera and Bhiwadi who have to pass through the stretch every day.
In view of the problems faced by the commuters and the industry, HT has planned a three-month campaign to support the demand to shift the toll plaza from Kherki Daula.
A study by the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi found that though the expressway was meant to carry interstate traffic between Delhi and Jaipur, it ended up being an intra-city urban road with features of a freeway, which has become its drawback.
“Almost 40% trips on the road are between Gurgaon and Manesar. An equal number of trips take place between Delhi and Gurgaon,” said Sewa Ram, associate professor, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi.
“For someone travelling occasionally between Delhi and Jaipur, waiting 30 minutes at the toll plaza in a six-hour journey is not that tough. But it is a serious problem for the daily commuters,” said Ram.
The slowdown of traffic caused by the Kherki Daula toll plaza not only causes congestions but has a wider ramification for industrial units in Manesar.
Manmohan Gaind, an industrialist and a member of the Manesar Industries Welfare Association, said the Kherki Daula toll plaza has hit Manesar-based firms badly.
“We waste a lot of money, time and energy because of jam at the toll plaza. I am an exporter and my foreign clients prefer to meet me in Delhi rather than coming to Manesar,” he said.
Locals, who live in villages around the toll plaza, say they have to suffer in many ways. Villagers say sometimes they get stuck in jams while on their way to hospital during medical emergencies. They said frequent clashes take place between them and toll staff.
Local villagers and industrialists are now planning to start a campaign to get the toll plaza shifted. A mahapanchayat of 50 villages was held recently to discuss the course of agitation.
The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway was opened to public in 2008. For four years, commuters had to bear with severe jams at the Sirhaul toll plaza at the Delhi-Gurgaon border. Taking into account the criticism, the National Highways Authority of India in February 2012 issued a show-cause notice for the termination of contract of the then concessionaire DGSCL. The matter then went to the Delhi high court. In February 2013, the NHAI issued a contract termination notice to DGSCL following alleged financial irregularities.
The termination of contract followed HT’s 53-day campaign ‘Taking a Toll’ that highlighted the problems faced by commuters and the alleged mismanagement of India’s first BOT (built, operate, transfer) expressway. The Haryana government had suggested shifting of the Kherki Daula toll plaza to Bilaspur then itself, but it could not happen.
It took almost one year for the court to decide on the transfer of the project to a consortium of bankers, which in 2014 set up Millennium City Expressways Private Limited (MCEPL) that currently runs the toll plaza. The toll was almost increased by three times at the Kherki Daula toll plaza for all vehicles to compensate for the removal of the Sirhaul plaza. At present, a private car driver pays Rs 59 as toll for each trip, while a light commercial vehicle driver pays Rs 87. A mini bus driver pays Rs 87 and bus and truck drivers pay Rs177.
The Sirhaul toll plaza was removed on the orders of the Delhi high court after HT’s sustained campaign, in which both civil society and local residents participated.
The state government has realised that the Kherki Daula toll plaza could mar its biggest industrial township in Manesar and real estate projects along the Northern Peripheral Road. Officials have, however, admitted that arranging Rs ,000 crore to compensate the concessionaire is difficult.
MCEPL CEO S Raghuraman claimed that all measures are taken to ensure that commuters do not spend more than two minutes at the toll plaza.
“All measures that were part of the concessionaire agreement have been executed at the toll plaza and the expressway,” he said.
Gurgaon police commissioner Navdeep Singh Virk, meanwhile said, the police have the minimum stake in managing the expressway but get the maximum flak.Problems on this road are because of design and engineering problems, he said.