Long queues greeted motorists heading in and out of Mumbai on Saturday morning as toll plazas started collecting tax at the five entry points three weeks after the Centre’s shock demonetisation move resulted in a waiver.
Severe snarls were reported on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and the Sion-Panvel highway, as many toll operators were not equipped with debit card machines and did not accept e-Wallet payments, despite promises by the Maharashtra government to promote cashless transactions at toll plazas.
Traffic officials told Hindustan Times the problem on the Expressway began near the Khalapur and Talegaon toll nakas around 8am, as several people paid in Rs2,000 notes.
The scenario was worse near the Vashi toll naka on the Sion-Panvel highway. “These plazas still have not been provided with card swipe machines. They had to collect toll in cash, and motorists were giving them notes of Rs2,000 right from the morning. Toll officials did not have enough change, ” said Rajesh Babshetty, police inspector of Vashi traffic unit.
“As it was a weekend, the traffic out of Mumbai to places such as Pune, Raigad and Ratnagiri was more. This added to the problem,” he said.
Walkeshwar-resident Sonal Mehta, who was travelling to Pune via the Vashi toll plaza said she spent 40 minutes waiting as the operator was not accepting Rs2,000 and Rs500 notes. “I was stuck for nearly 40 minutes. There were similar scenes at Khalapur toll plaza on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway too.”
An employee at the Dahisar toll plaza said many motorists were demanding change for Rs500 notes when they had to pay a toll of Rs35. “Not only does it become difficult to give everybody change, it also takes up a lot of time,” he said.
As queues grew longer through the day, police officials asked toll nakas to let vehicles go without collecting toll to clear the traffic. “After the morning rush passed, they started collecting toll again. They had to stop again a couple of times later in the day when the traffic got heavy,” Babshetty said.
MEP Infrastructure Developers Ltd, the firm in charge of collecting toll at the five entry points in Mumbai, has not installed any debit card machines yet. “We have tied up with IDBI Bank and State Bank of India (SBI) for machines and are expecting them by Monday. We should be able to have them online by Monday,” said Jayant D Mhaiskar, the firm’s vice chairman and managing director. Mhaiskar, however, added that installing debit card machines won’t the problem. “The number of motorists presenting debit or credit card is 0.001 percent. Debit card machines will not solve the issue of traffic, as it is a cumbersome and time-consuming process.”
As an immediate measure, Mhaiskar said arrangements were made for lower denomination notes. “We tied up with SBI to give us a certain amount in smaller denomination notes and coins. We are also encouraging people to buy cash cards and RFID tags,” Mhaiskar said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd, which collect toll at 60 toll plazas across the country said, “The toll collection restarted successfully; but some traffic was observed in view of the weekend.”