Even as transporters across India are striking over demands for removing toll from highways, National Highways Authority of India chairman Raghav Chandra said the tolling system should not be tampered with as it sends the wrong message to private highway developers investing in the sector.
“Toll discipline is very much part of the concession agreement and we should not tinker with the system. All these talks on removing toll causes constraint among private developers who enter into an agreement with the government to develop highways in lieu of collecting toll. It sends the wrong message,” NHAI chairman Raghav Chandra told HT in an interview.
Chandra added that scrapping the toll may jeopardise the government’s ambitious highway development programme. “Already in states like Kerala, where the government had scrapped toll on certain stretches, the private developers have taken the state road transport corporation to court,” he said.
There has been mounting public anger in recent years with incidents of violence reported from many parts of the country over having to pay toll on poorly-maintained highways.
The government had to shut-down the Delhi-Gurgaon toll plaza due to traffic jams.
Government officials said that the tolling issue has already snowballed into a major controversy in many states like Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
In Maharashtra, buckling under public and political pressure, the Devendra Fadnavis government had, in April, announced scrapping of toll for private light motor vehicles and state transport buses in 53 state highway plazas.
There have also been complaints against paying toll on highways where upgradation work is going on. With public pressure intensifying, the road transport ministry has recently moved a cabinet proposal to offer discounted toll on private vehicles on district highways and remove it altogether on public transport buses.
“The proposal is under discussion,” a highways ministry fficial said.
Earlier, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had announced scrapping toll on all such highway projects worth upto Rs 100 crore, where either the cost has been recovered or was about to be recovered, and projects where collection of toll has become unviable.