Logistics

A ‘toll' now, but profit in the long term

T. E. Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on November 14, 2017 Published on May 10, 2011

Toll Plaza on the National Highways-45.- Photo : Bijoy Ghosh   -  Business Line

Toll Plaza on the GST Road ( NH-45) - Photo : Bijoy Ghosh   -  Business Line

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It is now a delight to take a car drive on National Highway-45 (NH-45) or Grand Southern Trunk Road to the industrial town of Tiruchi from Chennai but the travel, apart form making a dent in the wallet, extracts a further cost in the form of tollcharges.

Well-laid, four-lane roads have made it easy for commuters to cover the 300-plus km in less than five hours. However, for a one-way trip to Tiruchi from Chennai, the toll fee comes to Rs 196. This is nearly the cost of the bus fare in a State Transport Corporation bus, says Sriram, who travels to Tiruchi every other week by car.

This is a familiar complaint, not only from Sriram, but from thousands of people who crisscross the country paying huge toll while travelling on the NH. According to the latest data, there are over 150 toll-based build-own-transfer roads on the NH network. The toll collection from all these crossed Rs 1,500 crore last year.

Sriram, however, is willing to pay the fairly large amount, as he is able to save nearly three hours by avoiding a bus or train journey. Tiruchi is now just four or five hours away by car while it takes nearly seven hours by bus or train to get there, he says.

Compromise

According to Bashyam, who has been travelling every month to his hometown Srirangam (10 km from Tiruchi) from Chennai by car for the last three years, the toll hurts. “But we need to look at the long-term view in terms of savings in vehicle maintenance and also fuel cost,” he adds.

Before the road was developed as a four-lane, his car used to consume nearly 20 litres of diesel on a one-way trip. But today the car consumes less than 15 litres, thanks to the smoother drive. Bashyam also noticed that there was less wear-and-tear of the tyres after the development of the highways.

Money-making plazas

The toll plazas, too, make good money. Take, for instance, the Attur toll plaza near Tindivanam. Nearly 11,000 vehicles pass through the plaza every day. On peak days, such as Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, it could be over 15,000 vehicles, says Nataraj, who works at the toll plaza.

The average daily collection is Rs 8 lakh. During festival seasons such as Pongal and Diwali, it could be over Rs 10 lakh, he adds.

National project

The National Highways comprise only about 2 per cent of the road length in the country and yet carry over 40 per cent of the traffic. In 1998, the first task mandated to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was the implementation of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP) — comprising the Golden Quadrilateral, the North-South Corridor and the East-West Corridor.

In addition, the NHAI is responsible for about 1,000 km of highways connecting major ports and also the National Highways 8A, 24, 6, 45 & 27. The length of highways under the NHAI is around 14,162 km.

As of March, the NHAI has awarded over 150 toll-based build, own and transfer projects across the country, according to information available on its Web site.

Published on May 10, 2011
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