The state's existing policy on collecting tolls on major roads and highways is flawed and needs drastic changes. This critique of the Public Works Department, which is in-charge of the toll policy, has not come from activists or commuters, but from within the government.
The finance department has suggested 15 recommendations to overhaul the toll policy, including drastically cutting down the VIP list of legislators, bureaucrats, ministers, who are exempted from paying toll. The VIP exemptions, financial officials argued, lead to an increase in 16% points, increasing the overall concession period for charging toll and hence add to the burden on commuters.
Following an uproar over payment of toll in the state despite bad condition of roads, the state cabinet on infrastructure held a meeting to discuss an overhaul of the existing road policy to bring it on par with the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Even the finance department, in its recommendations submitted last month, slammed the existing policy, pointing out the absence of an overall plan for charging toll.
Some of the important recommendations made by finance department include restricting the overall concession period to 15 years instead of the existing 30 years. Also, increasing the minimum distanced between two toll points to 50km instead of the existing 35km.
“We have suggested changes to make the policy more prudent and to reduce burden on commuters,'' said a senior official.
The recommendations will now be considered by the cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure this month or next year before finalising a final toll policy for roads.
The finance department also said that once a build-operate-transfer agreement is signed for a particular project, the overall cost of the project should not increase by more than 5%. At present, about 10% increase in project cost is allowed.