Logistics

Minister wants electronic toll collection on all highways by next year

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

As complaints against toll payments mount, pressure is rising on the Government to hold highway developers responsible for providing basic service-level agreements.

“What if tomorrow a set of users get together and file a class action suit demanding to know and get the exact service for the toll that they pay while using highways,” said Vinayak Chatterjee, CMD, Feedback Infrastructure Services, at a panel discussion here on Tuesday. Class action suit is not yet permitted in India, but a Bill to allow the same is pending in Parliament.

In this context, Highway Minister C.P Joshi, stressed on the need to migrate to electronic toll collection (ETC) and said people were probably right in asking why the country opted for public-private partnership. He wants to roll out ETC across highways by March next year.

ETC allows users to pay tolls through tags on their vehicles.

The Ministry is also amending the Motor Vehicle Act to mandate on-board vehicle units on all vehicles that roll out.

ETC allows users to pay tolls through tags on their vehicles. To reduce waiting time at highway toll plazas, NHAI has formed a company called Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL), which will implement ETC across national highways.

“IHMCL is owned by NHAI, concessionaires, and financial institutions. All major developers including L&T, GMR, IRB have small stakes in the company,” said JN Singh, Member-Finance, National Highways Authority of India. He is also the Chairman of IHMCL.

Gajendra Haldea, Advisor to the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, said there may be case for highway developers to pay back users if the waiting time increases. However, there is no clarity on whether the contract defines the exact waiting time for highway users.

COMPLAINTS ON RISE

Meanwhile, Joshi stated in the Lok Sabha on Monday that 451 complaints had been received against firms collecting tolls on National Highways. He did not specify the exact agency that received the complaints.

Simultaneously, there is also an increase in number of instances where highway users are unwilling to pay toll.

Broadly, complaints against toll collecting firms were related to misbehaviour by the employees, bad road condition, poor maintenance of amenities such as toilets, delay in toll collection, closure of lanes, shortage of change, and over-charging.

The Minister also gave instances where the toll collecting agencies had faced resistance from users.

For instance, there have been many agitations by local public against paying tolls in States such as Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

In Odisha, stage carriage buses are not paying toll tax and are asking for special discounts.

At Arjunali toll plaza, on Vadape-Gonde section in Maharashtra, fee collection was stopped for close to a month between January 23 and February 19, as local people demanded construction of additional underpasses.

>mamuni.das@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 06, 2013

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