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RTI reply: Toll plazas validity expired

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Have you ever travelled from Chennai to Kanyakumari via Tiruchi by road? If so, you are alleged to be cheated by a couple of toll plazas located in these stretches of NH45 and NH45B. Based on the responses for the Right to Information (RTI) petition filed recently seeking the validity of the toll plazas located along various National Highway segments in Tamilnadu, it is being claimed that two of the major toll plazas in NH45 also known as the Grand Southern Trunk (GST) road have not produced any proof document on extension of their toll collection period.

D Sampath Raj, a youth activist hailing from Saidpet in the city recently filed an RTI petition seeking the information on the validity of various toll plazas across the State for collecting the toll for using the road.

“I had sought the information regarding all toll plazas located in the routes Chennai-Kanyakumari, Chennai-Coimbatore and Chennai-Pondicherry. It has been over a month since I had filed the petition and only a couple of segments of the NHs in the State have replied,” said Sampath.

According to the replies received by Sampath, only the Toll Plazas located along Krishnagiri and Ulundurpet, Dindigul to Samayanallur and Madurai to Kanyakumari have replied. “Still now, I have not received any information regarding the toll plazas along Chennai to Tiruchi and Chennai to Salem segments of the NHs.”

When asked what made him to apply for that, Sampath said, “Already, a lot of allegations regarding the delay in extension of concessionary over toll collection period for the toll plazas along the Chennai-Tiruchi section of the GST.”

Sampath said that the time has got over long back, and the toll plazas still have not taken steps to extend the concessionary over toll collection period. “It was based on the newly formed ToT mechanism over the existing BoT mechanism, these toll plazas received these extension period through competitive bidding.”

Under this newly launched ToT model, the rights of collection of user-fee or toll on selected national highway built through public funding are proposed to be auctioned and assigned to a concessionaire for a period of 30-years against an upfront payment of a lump-sum amount to the government. The concessionaire is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the national highways during the tenure.

The project had got Cabinet approval in August 2016. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) authorised NHAI to monetise 75 publicly funded national highways that are operational and have been generating toll revenues for at least two years.

“Of these, four publicly funded highway segements are along NH45 that did not meet with the rules of the project.” According to rating agency ICRA Ltd, these 75 projects with a road length of 4,376 km can yield around Rs 35,600 crore under ToT model.

When News Today contacted a top official from the Regional Office of the National Highways, he said, “There are, basically, three types of tolling methods for NHs in the country namely BoT (Build-Operate-Transfer), OMT (Operate-Maintain-Transfer) and public funding. Of this, public funding was brought under ToT (Toll-Operate-Transfer) citing to monetise it. So, the competitive bidding process differs with respect to the type of the toll plaza involved in it.’ According to the official, the OMT are still under way and so there would be lag in the response.”

However, Sampath denied it by saying that the toll plazas are already under monetisation. “They have been collecting the fee for a very long time. Also only four of them are under OMT method, while the rest are BOT. So, what about the rest?”

He said, if the toll plazas really have not extended their toll period, the loss met by the public due to this is very high. “As many as seven toll plazas within a stretch of 332 kilometers in GST are collecting without the proper validity to collect. It costs up to Rs 360 for a normal car or a jeep. While there are 10 toll plazas between Chennai and Coimbatore for which a total cost of Rs 510 is paid for a car journey,” Sampath said.


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