Travelling on two-laned roads - a majority of which are toll-free- could soon burn a hole in your pocket.
With an eye on attracting investment and generating more revenue for the highways sector, the government is planning to charge toll for plying on a majority of two-laned roads. The move is being dubbed by many as politically inexpedient ahead of assembly polls in half-a-dozen states next year.
At present, toll is collected only on those two-laned roads where the average cost of upgradation is Rs 2.5 crore per km. But the road transport ministry has proposed to do away with the financial parameter and instead replace it with a physical parameter, which will make charging a toll mandatory on all two-laned highway stretches widened by three metre or more after April 2008.
This would, according to government officials, automatically result in majority of the existing two-laned road stretches coming under toll. The ministry has proposed to charge 60 % of the normal toll that is presently levied on four and above laned highways on all such two-laned roads that has been widened by three metres or more.
Of the about 71,000 km stretch of national highways in India, 50 % are two-laned. Only a minuscule percentage of this is tolled as of now.
"The proposal to amend the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 which will bring two-laned roads under toll will soon be taken up for cabinet approval," said a government official.
This is not the first time that the ministry has proposed to impose user fee on majority of the two-laned roads. A similar cabinet note was circulated by the ministry in February. But after coming under flak from different quarters, the note was withdrawn. Road transport minister CP Joshi had subsequently directed officials to redraft the proposal based on realistic empirical data, actual cost of construction and maintenance.